National Maritime Museum restoring world's oldest canoe found in Cornish barn
A museum has announced the discovery of what may be the world's oldest canoe – which has spent more than 200 years rotting in a barn.
Staff at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall are restoring the vessel – which has been stored on a family estate since 1776 – before it goes on display next week.
The birch bark canoe has been stored in the barn on an estate at Penryn, near Falmouth, since it was last used in the 18th century. It was brought to Britain from Canada by Lt John Enys after he fought in the American War of Independence in 1776.
The canoe remained on the family estate ever since and its significance has only just emerged after one of the family contacted the museum.
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Andy Wyke,boat collections manager at the museum, said it will now be restored and shipped back to Canada. He said it was the beginning new journey for this "incredible find", adding: ''For over 200 years, the canoe has belonged to the Enys family.
''Lt Enys sailed from Falmouth in a packet ship to join his regiment in Canada to relieve the city of Quebec, which was under siege from the Americans. He fought many military campaigns and toured the area for his personal interest – discovering this canoe along the way.
''It's incredible to think its legacy has been resting in a barn in Cornwall all this time."
Wendy Fowler, a descendent of the Enys family, called the Maritime Museum about the canoe. She said: ''The estate is very special to us and holds many secrets but I believe this is the most interesting to date. 'The gardens reveal their stunning bluebells in May of every year and the grounds hold a host of wonders, but this really is very special.
''I'm most grateful that my great, great, great, great, great uncle's travels have led to such a major chapter of boating history being discovered in Cornwall."
Teams at the museum will be researching the history of the canoe, conserving the remaining wood and preserving what's left of it. The Native American canoe will then be repatriated to Canada for further research.
It is planned to go on display in Britain, with supporting artefacts, in the Main Hall of National Maritime Museum Cornwall from late January to September 2011.