Maplin Sands

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The Maplin Sands are mudflats on the northern bank of the Thames estuary, off Foulness Island, near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England, though they actually lie within the neighbouring borough of Rochford. They are valuable as a wildlife reserve, with a large colony of dwarf eelgrass (Zostera noltei) and associated animal communities.

Maplin Screw Pile Lighthouse

A screw-pile lighthouse was built on the sands in 1838, which was possibly the world's first.

In the later part of the 19th century John I. Thornycroft & Company and Yarrow Shipbuilders used the sands for the measured mile speed trials of their Destroyers.[1] The shallow waters resulted in a flow of water that could add up to a knot to the ship's speed.[1] When the Admiralty found out they required that all future trials be carried out in deep water.[1]

Following the report of the 1968 Roskill Commission, in 1973 plans were proposed and approved for a third airport for London, the Thames Estuary Airport, but were abandoned in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The project would also have included a deep-water harbour suitable for the container ships then coming into use, a high-speed rail link to London, and a new town for the accommodation of the thousands of workers who would be required.

The Maplin Sands were at that time, and remain, a military testing ground belonging to the Ministry of Defence, as does Foulness Island.


  1. ^ a b c Preston, Antony (2002). The World's Worst Warships. Conway Maritime Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-85177-754-6. 

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Coordinates: 51°33′44″N 0°53′49″E / 51.56228°N 0.89703°E / 51.56228; 0.89703