This week marks the 30th anniversary of the recovery of the 16th century English warship Mary Rose which sank on July 19, 1545 with nearly 500 officers and crew. Historians believe the ship was constructed around 1510 in Portsmouth and displaced 500 tons when it first entered service. The ship underwent two refits and during the second refit in 1536 the Mary Rose was strengthened and her displacement increased to 700 tons.
Mary Rose served the English Navy in wars against France and Scotland and it was during the Battle of Solent against a fleet of 200 French vessels that the Mary Rose was lost. Accounts differ as to the exact cause of the Mary Rose’s loss – the French believed they had sunk her while English accounts indicate that the ship most likely foundered due to poor seamanship by her crew.
Salvage efforts were launched immediately utilizing an age old technique used for recovery efforts the world over. Using two hulks and various winches, the salvors would straddle the ship with the two hulks, flood them, secure cables around the Mary Rose and then re-float the hulks. This process would be repeated until the ship reached water shallow enough where repairs could be made and the Mary Rose herself be re-floated. The salvors were unsuccessful in raising the ship and it remained hidden until 1965 when it was re-discovered by British diver Alexander McKee. The ship was finally recovered in 1982 and has been painstakingly preserved beneath a glassed-in drydock in Portsmouth. A permanent museum display is under construction and will be opened in early 2013. The museum is open to visitors during the transition period and visitors can also view Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory (not to be confused with Admiral Balchin’s HMS Victory) at the dockyard. More information can be found on the Mary Rose’s website.