Sites : Mary
Rose Excavation 2003-2005
Location - The Solent,
Coordinates : 49 52.2628N 006 26.5928W (WGS84) Depth
Conditions : Sheltered, strong
tides, poor visibility
Type : Warship, 90 guns Built : 1509 Lost :
Designated under the UK
Protection of Wrecks Act (1973)
National Monuments Record No.: 1121974
Rose was one of the first ships built during the early years of the reign of King Henry VIII, probably in Portsmouth. She
served as Flagship during Henry’s First French War and was substantially refitted and rebuilt during her 36 year long life. The
Mary Rose sank in 1545 whilst defending
Portsmouth from the largest invasion fleet ever known,
estimated at between 30,000 and 50,000 individuals and between 150 and 200 vessels. This number is nearly twice the number estimated
within the fleet of 1588, latterly known as the Spanish Armada. At this time Mary Rose was the second largest and most heavily armed vessel
within the fleet; she carried 91 guns deployed over three decks, her main gun deck carried fourteen large guns including two cannons
which fired 64lb cast iron shot.
The Mary Rose marks a transition between the use of a vessel to support guns and a vessel built to carry large guns close to the waterline,
her structure is undocumented in historical sources and there are no shipwright’s plans. The
Mary Rose is an extremely important vessel to study in order to
understand the evolution of the fighting ship.
In 1965 Alexander
McKee started Project Solent Ships and one of the wrecks they hoped to find was the Mary Rose. In 1967 pioneering sidescan and
sub-bottom survey work by EG&G and Doc Edgerton found a ‘flattened W’ shaped target in the area where the ship
was thought to have sunk. The years 1968-1971 were spent by ‘Mad Mac’s Marauders’ finding proof of the ship's identity with few funds and
little resources, success was achieved in 1971 with the discovery of the first three of the ship's frames.
Excavation work between 1979 and 1982 took 28000 dives and 12 man years on the bottom but
culminated in the recovery of a large part of the starboard side of the hull. The recovery itself was shown on live television and
was watched by 60 million people worldwide. At that time it was not known that site was not fully excavated and a portion of the
bow remained under the mud of the Solent.
impression of the Mary Rose
The UK Ministry of
Defence may need to widen and straighten the channel approach to Portsmouth Harbour to accommodate their new aircraft carriers.
The dredging work could affect the site of the Mary Rose historic wreck so what remains
on the site had to be removed. When the hull
of the Mary Rose was recovered from the seabed some of the ship was not recovered, some
timbers and artefacts were reburied while the remains of the bow castle were never investigated.
A multi-phase project was put together by the Mary Rose Trust with the aim of
recovering the buried artefacts and debris, excavating the spoil mounds to remove any artefacts, undertaking visual and magnetic
searches and delimiting the extent of the debris field.
The fieldwork for 2003 included using an excavation ROV to remove the top layer of
silt that had covered the wreck leaving the delicate excavation to be done by divers with airlifts.
Site Recorder was used for mapping, finds recording and providing
decision making information for the archaeological director, Alex
Sonardyne Fusion Acoustic Positioning System (APS) was used on the 4 week project to provide high accuracy positioning for support
vessel, ROV and divers. The positioning system was connected
to Site Recorder and allowed the GIS program to display the
positions of divers on the site plan in real time.
See the Mary Rose Photo
The hull in the ship hall
Download the digital archive
Opens using the FREE Site Reader program
|At the end of the
2003 season the first evidence of the remaining bow structure was
found, a 5m long section of stem timber. The mission for 2004
was to investigate the size and condition of the remaining timbers
in this area, in association with the stem timber were sections
of articulated port side lower hull timbers including partial
remains of inner (ceiling) planking, frames and outer hull planking.
A 5m long anchor was also located.
image taken from Site Recorder shows detail around the excavation
trenches, including the main stem timber, port side frames and anchor.
The large stem timber recovered on
More timbers were uncovered to the north of
the stem timber. The area around and under the anchor was
investigated and further timbers were found there, including what
may be a floor timber which would have come from beyond the end of
the keel. To the east of the anchor some concretions were uncovered
– including a breech chamber and a hook and bronze pulley sheave
which may have formed part of the anchor-handling equipment.
The stem timber was stropped up to a 7 metre long spreader beam and was
gently lifted from the seabed using a crane. The stem was
transferred underwater onto a cradle ready for its final journey to
the surface and ashore to Portsmouth. Similarly, the anchor was
moved from its resting place to be alongside the cradle before
final task was to put the site to bed. The excavated area has
been covered with an industrial geotextile called ‘Terram’,
which has been held down by 800 sandbags and 100 tons of sand.
This should ensure the preservation of the area uncovered by the
last two seasons of excavation and keep the site safe for future
The anchor raised from the seabed
picture below is a Site Recorder chart showing the large number of
targets identified around the Mary Rose site during recent
Diver carrying the Survey Staff
used standard surface supplied diving equipment including voice
communications along with helmet mounted lights and video cameras. The divers
could also use a 'survey staff' fitted with an acoustic positioning
system for positioning finds and
structure. On board the support vessel it was possible to see
the pictures from the cameras and to hear the discussion between
divers and dive supervisor. The recording and positioning
systems were set up behind the dive supervisor so the recorder could
see the feed from the cameras and the positions of the divers on
site whilst adding information to the Site Recorder GIS. The
archaeologists and divers could collectively discuss issues and
ideas as they occurred with all the available information at their
The results from this project show that the Fusion Long Baseline acoustic
positioning system can be used to achieve high accuracy positioning underwater on an archaeological site.
The system can achieve this even in the difficult acoustic environment found in tidal water only 10m deep.
The 30mm position accuracy achieved on this project is comparable to conventional survey methods and
is sufficient for plotting finds and the extent of hull structure.
Fusion and Site Recorder in the
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Press Ltd, ISBN 0 285 62091 6 [ABE]
- The Search for King Henry VIII's Mary Rose, McKee A.,
in Marine Archaeology, Blackman D. (Ed), 1973, Colston Research
Society, pp185-203 [ABE]
- The Story of the Mary Rose, Bradford E., 1982, Hamish
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Ltd., ISBN 0 85177 289 7 [ABE]
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80185 2021 [ABE]
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Ltd., ISBN 07524 1416 X, pp126-127 [ABE]
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A., 2000 [ABE]
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The Navy Records Society, ISBN 0 7546 0094 7 [ABE]
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Press, ISBN 0 85177 785 6 [ABE]
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Ltd., ISBN 0 9544029 0 1 [ABE]
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Rose Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9544029 5 2 [ABE]
- Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose,
Gardiner J., 2005, Mary Rose Trust Ltd. [ABE]
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Sutton Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0 7509 3167 1 [ABE]
- Acoustic Technology in Historic Wreck Recovery Hildred
A. & Holt P., 2004, © Hydro International March 2004 Vol 8 No 2
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Publishing, ISBN 978 1 86176 267 2 [ABE]