Return to the high definition surveying seas

Chapter 1: Mary Rose's excavation

Return to the high definition surveying seas

Author: Natalie Binder, June 2016 

Steeped in history, the Mary Rose was King Henry VIII’s Tudor warship. Built between 1509 - 1511, the Mary Rose was a successful warship and in Henry VIII’s possession for more than 34 years, nearly the entirety of his reign. Adapting with the naval demands of the time, the Mary Rose started out as a troop ship and ended as a gun ship. During Henry VIII’s reign, the Mary Rose fought in three wars, starting in battle in the first French War between 1512 and 1514 and ending in the third French War in 1545, her final battle.

The catastrophic sinking of the Mary Rose 19 July 1545 in front of the king has been a tale often retold. The cause of the tragedy is still uncertain; some accounts say French gunfire, a gust of wind or an unruly crew. Whatever the cause, the Mary Rose’s history and her supreme marine excavation have truly captured the minds of the general public for generations.

Mary Rose’s excavation

The discovery and excavation of the sunken Tudor warship some 437 years later was a milestone in maritime archaeology. Rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982, the Mary Rose was brought back to No. 3 Dry Dock in Portsmouth’s Naval Base, metres away from where she was lovingly built all those years ago. The silt on the seabed helped to preserve some 19,000 artefacts, each excavated and brought to the surface. Here a secure and sheltered building was constructed over the ship so the process of conserving the ship could begin. The Mary Rose was open to visitors 11 October 1983.

Since her excavation in 1982, it was imperative to keep her wet, therefore the ship was sprayed with chilled water to stop the timbers from drying out and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth. The ship needed to be strengthened before the hull could be dried to avoid collapsing. Therefore the Mary Rose was sprayed with a chemical called Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), which is like a wax. The concentration of the PEG was gradually built up to avoid damage to the wood. She was sprayed like this for almost 20 years to conserve her.

Explore next chapter: Mary Rose museum and Leica Geosystems' involvement

Story: Return to the high (definition surveying) seas
Chapter 1: Mary Rose's excavation
Chapter 2: Mary Rose museum and Leica Geosystems' involvement
Chapter 3: Future of the Mary Rose

Reporter 75 - June 2016

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