Excavation is continuing on the HMS Invincible, with a team from Bournemouth University, the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) and the National Museum of the Royal Navy working together to unearth the secrets of the ship.
HMS Invincible is located off the shores of the Solent coastline, where it has sat since sinking in 1758, with the team’s work starting last year to excavate and recover some of the ship’s contents from the sea bed and discover more about the ship’s past.
The ship, build by the French in 1744 and captured by the British in 1747, was used by the Royal Navy before sinking, and the finds could bring context to a period of maritime warfare of which little is known.
The team began excavation work on the ship in 2017, building on work from previous divers since the ship was rediscovered in 1979. Work on the second excavation began in May this year.
Jessica Berry, CEO of MAST, said, "It is a huge honour to have been able to make this project possible. Every day on site is hugely exciting and brings us something new.”
Dave Parham, Associate Professor of Maritime Archaeology at Bournemouth University, said, “The sheer scale of the task is growing as we uncover previously unseen hull, enough of to make an assessment to plan a way forward."
So far, the team have uncovered a number of artefacts, including five swivel guns, and a range of other weaponry, which brings light to warfare in this period of maritime history.
Dan Pascoe, the HMS Invincible site licensee and nominated archaeologist, said, "What is exciting is that the artefacts are in their original context. Gun wads have been found in their right place and quoins (used to elevate the cannon in place) are all marked for their specific size.
“What is evident is the huge level of organisation level and professionalism of the Royal Navy. The finds show a very well organised Navy. All survive in good condition because of the intact nature of ship”
Kevin Stratford is a Research Fellow at Bournemouth University, and Volunteer Coordinator for the project. He said, “Aside from understanding more about the site formation and how the relevant pieces of shipwreck survived where they have. This season for example we identified and recovered a number of swivel guns, a form of mobile artillery for many ships and smaller vessels of the time. As the accounts stated that all armaments were salvaged at the time of the wrecking this came as a nice surprise to the team.”
The team have not been without their challenges however, as they were also surprised by the levels of pollution in the Solent waters; a large amount was found to have been lodged within the archaeology of the ship.
Kevin Stratford continued, “We have collected a surprisingly large quantity of rubbish from the site from both seasons. This is highlighting the potential for this and other shipwrecks within our waters to act as collection points for rubbish where the material slowly breaks down and likely pollutes much of the marine life inhabiting them. The shipwrecks are just one part of a bigger problem that is finally being noticed and its negative effects on the marine environment are being greater understood day by day. The diving community has long been involved in many public drives to clean up our oceans as we are the people who get to see the high level of pollutants first hand.”
Plans are already underway for the continuation of the project; Dan Pascoe continued, “A third excavation season is needed to able to fulfil all objectives to a standard we want as have such vast quantity of ship and material.”
BU, MAST and the NMRN were awarded £2 million from the LIBOR fund for the excavation of the wreck site. It is planned that the excavated materials will go on display for the public to enjoy.