Birch bark canoe is possibly the world's oldest

A canoe, believed to be the oldest birch-bark canoe in existence, has been uncovered in Cornwall.

Estimated to be more than 250 years old, the Native American canoe was found on the estate of the Enys family and was brought to England by Lt John Enys in 1776 after fighting in the American War of Independence.

It has now been moved to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, where it will be restored and displayed in the Main Hall from late January to September 2011, before being repatriated to Canada.

Andy Wyke, boat collections manager at the museum, said: ‘Moving the canoe is the beginning of a whole new journey back to Canada for this incredible find.

‘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, whose records date back to the 13th century, called the museum so they could look at the canoe lying in the estate’s barn. She said: ‘The estate is very special to us and holds many secrets, but I believe this is the most interesting to date.

‘The Maritime Museum are brilliantly repatriating another element of our great family history and 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.’

George Hogg, archivist and trustee of the museum, said: ‘When we received the call from the Enys family to identify their canoe in a shed we had no idea of the importance of the find.

‘We knew we had something special, but having worked with the British Museum on the artefacts and the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, we now believe that this is one of the world’s oldest birch-bark canoes. This is a unique survival from the 18th century.’

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