After six years of non-disturbance site monitoring and research, the Victory Shipwreck Project is transitioning into a joint research and rescue project to mitigate the site’s loss and to maximise appreciation of this rare and marginalised heritage. The non-disturbance phases have been fully completed and published.
The Maritime Heritage Foundation plans to conduct intrusive activities in phased stages and will adhere to the Key Management Principles outlined in the Project Design. The fieldwork will initially recover at risk surface artefacts and examine related contexts to save maximum primary data and promote scientific and education knowledge. The historical and archaeological research agenda will examine the following broad themes:
Due to pressures of accessibility, depth and safety, the Victory Shipwreck Project will use remote-access robotic technology through a collaboration with Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa, USA. This will be the first deep-sea wreck archaeological project conducted entirely by remote technology off the British Isles by a UK organisation.
Operations will be directed from the 76m-long Odyssey Explorer and use ZEUS, an eight-ton Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV) capable of replicating shallow-water excavation, documentation and recovery actions. The world’s most sophisticated archaeologically-tooled ROV, ZEUS is equipped with manipulator arms, a venturi-pump operated sediment removal system for gentle dusting and stratigraphic excavation, a specialised sediment sifting and collection device (SeRF) for examining very small finds and environmental data from specific contexts, and a limpet suction tool to delicately recover artefacts.
The project will use a Sonardyne SPRINT (Subsea Precision Reference Inertial Navigation Technology) system, an acoustically aided inertial navigation package for subsea vehicles that provides maximum accuracy during surveying and recording. All archaeological activities will be video recorded and captured in still photography by ZEUS’ seven cameras.
The exact positions of hull structures, artefacts and, we expect in due course, trenches will be recorded through a virtual grid (the underwater equivalent of excavation grids used in land archaeology). Micro-photomosaics will be produced of every trench, pre- and post-disturbance. Proprietary software, including an Artefact Inventory, developed by Odyssey, will track and catalogue the history of all artefacts from their pre-disturbance in situ contexts to recovery.
Recorded data are entered automatically into the DataLog® software system to record all events and activities. DataLog receives and processes data from the ROV in real time. All activities, artefact manipulations and archaeological and environmental observations are recorded through the selection of choices from drop-down menus. The system is manned 24 hours a day when the ROV is in the water and automatically logs all events, including time, date, dive number and X, Y, Z coordinates of any activity.
Artefacts are catalogued with unique identification numbers according to medium (class), dimensions, description, photography, conservation history and current location, amongst other recording options, and yield Archaeological Finds Sheets
The project is dedicated to preservation by record, research and publication. The online Virtual Dive Trail will be updated with new discoveries, video coverage and publications. An extensive multi-disciplinary programme of scientific analyses will be pursued during and after the fieldwork in collaboration with specialist consultants to maximise our understanding of the wreck. This will culminate in a series of Progress Reports, Preliminary Scientific Reports and Final Scientific Reports, the latter to be published within five years of the completion of the project.
Artefacts transferred under the deed of gift that are recovered and accessioned from the wreck along with the associated archive, including site plans, drawings and photographs, will form the “Victory 1744 Collection”, which will be managed and curated in line with the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics for Museums.
The Maritime Heritage Foundation is committed to the public exhibition of as many artefacts as reasonably possible and is working with a national museum to ensure the collection can be appreciated through public display focusing on the history, excavation and interpretation of the Victory. Further educational initiatives and forms of public outreach are under development.