Newfoundland musician Greg Fleming has breathed new life into a 300-year-old shipwreck found in Renews Harbour, on the southeast coast of Newfoundland. His inspiration? Electric guitars.
Fleming discovered the sunken timbers from the shipwreck dated back to 1661 after working with the University of Ottawa to carbon-date the wood.
Tree nails held the timbers together, making them an interesting find. Until someone found and moved them to a field in Renews in 1994, they had spent centuries at the bottom of the ocean.
For years, the timbers lay untouched, waiting for someone to give them a new purpose. In 2019, Fleming decided to experiment with wood and make electric guitars out of it. He cut the boards of wood open. Then, he dried them out slowly and used them to make his first set of custom instruments.
Fleming used sunken timbers to make the Tidebreaker guitar entirely with solid wood, which was infused with seawater and changed properties over centuries. Giving the guitars a unique sound unlike anything else in his collection.
The wood’s fragility means the creation process takes two to three months, but the final product is worth the wait. Fleming hopes to complete a limited series of 10 guitars with the wood he has left. But he won’t know how much wood is usable until he cuts into it. He may end up selling some of the guitars, hoping to share the feel, sound, and history of the instruments.
When Fleming plays his Tidebreaker guitar, he’s reminded of the shipwreck that was underwater for 300 years. “It’s truly remarkable when I look at what this wood looked like in a field, to a finished instrument,” he said. “Every time I play it, I get chills.”
As a result, Fleming’s Tidebreaker guitar is more than just an instrument. It’s a piece of history that has been brought back to life and given a new purpose.