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The Raising of the Mary Rose

Posted by Big Boo on April 7th, 2009

mary roseThe Mary Rose was an English Tudor warship, the pride of the Royal Navy and apparently King Henry VIII’s favourite warship. What an odd idea that is.  You are I might have a favourite song or TV show, but not many of us can stand back and say, “of all my warships, this one is definitely my favourite”.

Built in Portsmouth around 1510 the Mary Rose saw active service for over 30 years, and over that time saw its fair share of sea battles.  Armed with no less than 78 guns, which increased to 91 after it was upgraded in 1536, the Mary Rose was one of the first ships to be able to fire all it’s broadside cannons at once, making it a force to be reckoned with.

So what is a 16th century boat doing on a web site devoted to the 1980’s?  Well, I’m getting to that.  In 1545 during a battle against the French the Mary Rose was sunk in the Solent.  It lay at the bottom of the sea for the following centuries, briefly being discovered in 1836 before being forgotten about in 1840.  The sediments at the bottom of the sea covered the wreck, and it wasn’t until 1967 that sonar was used to rediscover it’s resting place.  In 1971 weather conditions caused the wreck to be partially uncovered, and it could be studied by scientists.

In 1979 the Mary Rose Trust was formed with the aim of bringing the ship and it’s rotting timbers to the surface, and in 1982 this dream became a reality.  Blue Peter followed the process in agonising detail as one of the shows more educational features, showing the usual artifacts such as bottles and combs so beloved of archaeologists.  We also learnt how the timbers of the ship would rot away completely if they were kept under the right conditions, which in practice meant a giant fridge had to be constructed to keep the vessel cool whilst spraying it with seawater to stop it drying out.

The broken hulk of this once great ship has since been through many different treatments to keep it preserved, and if you’re ever in the Portsmouth area you can go and see it for yourself as it is on display there.  A campaign is currently running to raise funds to build a purpose designed museum to house the Mary Rose, so for more information on this and the ship in generally, visit the The Mary Rose website.

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