WEEKEND WEB: Uncovering history from the depths of the sea
TRISH TAKES FIVE: By award-wnning blogger Trish Burgess
Most of us of a certain age can remember the exciting news story in 1982 when the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s warship, was eventually recovered, having lain at the bottom of the Solent for over 400 years.
There was a terrible moment when one of the pins holding the lifting frame sheared, causing a steel line to snap and part of the frame to smash down on the hull.
Thankfully the damage was slight and Henry VIII’s magnificent wooden warship continued its journey to the surface.
I was watching a news programme last week regarding the 1,200 cannonballs that were found on the ship. It has been difficult to conserve them, as the chlorine from the water has reached the core of the cannonballs. If they are exposed to air, they begin to corrode.
Using a powerful X-ray facility, the Diamond Light Source, scientists are now able to see detailed maps of the elements involved in the corrosive process. This is a new development which will lead to improved conservation methods on a molecular scale.
The team in Portsmouth responsible for conserving the ship have already done a remarkable job, considering they were learning as they went along, when the ship was first raised.
When we were in the city last year we visited the sleek, futuristic museum which houses the Mary Rose, in the Historic Dockyard. It’s an incredible place. The remains of the warship, plus hundreds of preserved artefacts, are exhibited in nine galleries. Visitors walk along glass walkways to see the ship, which is carefully positioned, with the lights dimmed.
The Mary Rose then springs to life with a superb light and sound experience which projects images onto the ship so you can watch the sailors working, as they would have done in 1545.
On the top floor, you walk through special air-locked doors to finally breathe the same humid air as the ship itself. It’s a very special moment and you are given time to admire the ship from the balcony.
Whilst conservationists and engineers have been instrumental in releasing this famous ship from its watery grave, it’s the Beast from the East which has been responsible for revealing more ancient wood to the public’s gaze.
In North Yorkshire the beach at Redcar has recently lost swathes of sand, uncovering the petrified remains of an old forest. Probably from the neolithic period, the Redcar Forest is at least 6,000 years old.
No wonder locals have been flocking to the beach to see this amazing sight: fallen trees and stumps, together with the remains of more recent shipwrecks, are visible on the shore. They haven’t got long to look: normal tides will soon return and the past will again be hidden under layers of sand.
• You can read Trish’s blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk