Timeline

6 March 1726

  • Master shipwright Joseph Allin begins building Victory in Portsmouth dockyard.

23 February 1737

  • The Victory is launched.

28 July 1744

  • Victory sails for Lisbon to liberate Sir Charles Hardy's Mediterranean storeship convoy, blockaded by the French down the River Tagus.

5 October 1744

  • HMS Victory, under the command of Admiral Sir John Balchin, was lost during a severe storm in the western English Channel.

1744-2008

  • Based on contemporary reports, Victory believed to lie near the Casquets, off Alderney in the Channel Islands.
  • Multiple search attempts to locate the shipwreck fail.

2008

  • The Victory wreck site was located by Odyssey Marine Exploration in April 2008 while they were conducting an extensive archaeological survey of the Western English Channel (4,725 square nautical miles) using side-scan sonar and magnetometry. Preliminary non-disturbance surveys led to the belief that Odyssey had discovered the long-lost wreck of the Admiral Sir John Balchin's First Rate Royal Navy warship, HMS Victory. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) was notified of the find.
  • The shipwreck is located outside UK territorial waters in the Western English Channel, over 100km from where the ship was believed lost.
  • Conscious of the pervasive conviction that the Victory sank off the Channel Isles, the MOD granted permission for Odyssey to continue surveying the site and to recover two bronze cannon for verification and study purposes.
  • A comprehensive non-disturbance survey and limited trial trenching were conducted between May and October 2008, which included measurement and photography of surface features and the production of a photomosaic of the site consisting of 2,821 high-resolution still images and the recovery of a 12-pounder and 42-pounder cannon. An archaeological report detailing the findings of these surveys is available here.
  • The preliminary investigations revealed that the integrity of the site had been extensively disturbed by offshore fishing. Of major concern was the orientation of the visible cannon, some of which no longer reflected their original dispositions. Three-ton guns had been dragged over 55m away from the wreck mound.
  • The date, size, calibre and decoration of the 41 guns surveyed and two recovered examples were key pieces of evidence that conclusively identified the shipwreck as Britain's First Rate warship, HMS Victory — the last Royal Navy warship lost at sea with a complete complement of bronze cannon.
  • In December 2008, Wreck Watch Int. contacted Dr. Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage, on behalf of the Victory Shipwreck Project to ensure his organisation was aware of the wreck's discovery and importance, and to attempt to open dialogue about the site's management.

2009

  • With MOD approval, Odyssey announced the discovery of the Victory wreck in February 2009.
  • In September 2009, the UK Government agreed to pay Odyssey a salvage award of 80% as compensation for the two cannon recovered. A valuation of approximately £120,000 was agreed, providing for a salvage award of £94,000. Odyssey donated £44,000 of this to the National Museum of the Royal Navy to assist its historical, educational and cultural education programme.
  • In September and December 2009, Wessex Archaeology published an archaeological desk-based assessment of the Victory site and the results of a geophysical survey commissioned by English Heritage on behalf of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Wessex Archaeology identified the site as of 'Medium-High' overall importance and of a 'National/International' overall sphere of interest (Wessex Archaeology, 2009A; Wessex Archaeology, 2009B).
  • In October 2009, a study was published into fishing pressures in the Western English Channel, including the Victory site, available here. The study presented significant data showing the wreck had been extensively impacted by bottom fishing.

2010

  • In March 2010, the MOD and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched a public consultation on the future management of the Victory. The consultation sought views on three proposed management options and suggestions for funding sources to carry out each option.
  • Odyssey presented a site management recommendation to the consultation and offered to fund all work at no cost to Her Majesty's Government.

2011

  1. In July 2011, the MOD and Department for Culture, Media and Sport published Public Consultation on Options for the Management of the Wreck Site of HMS Victory, which concluded that there was little likelihood that significant public funding could be made available to support and safeguard the site, which lies outside UK territorial waters.
  2. The report also revealed that only one respondent had provided an offer to fund the ongoing site management, excavation, conservation and exhibition relating to HMS Victory by setting up a charitable foundation now known as the Maritime Heritage Foundation (mirroring the governance of the Mary Rose project). The Government supported this proposal subject to appropriate archaeological oversight.
  3. A 24-pounder bronze cannon, 3.03m long, was illegally looted from the Victory wreck in July 2011 by a Dutch salvage ship using a hydraulic grab.

2012

  • In January 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence transferred title to the Victory from the MOD to the Maritime Heritage Foundation (MHF), a charitable trust whose objectives “are inter alia to locate, excavate, recover, raise, restore and/or preserve shipwrecks for the education and benefit of the Nation.” By Deed, the Secretary of State transferred to the MHF “every part of the said vessel; and all that is connected with her which is situated in the immediate vicinity of where she is lying (save insofar of personal property not belonging to the Crown) upon trust for the education and benefit of the Nation.” The Deed furthermore specified that the MHF shall not “disturb, remove from the seabed, sell, charge, lease, give or otherwise dispose of anything hereby transferred without the express consent of the Secretary of State, provided that such consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.”
  • In February 2012, the MHF contracted with Odyssey Marine Exploration, the company that discovered and has been continuing to monitor the Victory at its own cost since 2008, for the financing, archaeological survey, excavation, conservation and exhibit of the wreck and its artefacts. The agreement called for a detailed Project Design to be submitted and approved in advance of any work and for comprehensive reports to be provided to document the results of each phase completed.
  • A detailed document for the archaeological study of the wreck, HMS Victory 1744 (Site 25C) - Project Design was produced by Odyssey, accepted by the MHF and submitted to the MOD and its Advisory Group in February 2012.
  • The Project Design identified the composition of a multi-disciplinary team of consultant experts, including for cannon, the marine environment, marine biology, pottery, small finds, tobacco pipes, glass wares, leather shoes, coins, animal bones and human bones.
  • The Maritime Heritage Foundation established a Scientific Advisory Committee, chaired by marine archaeologist Dr. Margaret Rule, to review all proposed archaeological plans and archaeological work.
  • Between February and August 2012, Odyssey conducted, on behalf of the MHF, a comprehensive non-disturbance survey that completed Project Design Phases 1-2. The wide ranging initiatives applied included side-scan and multibeam sonar, the production of two photomosaics, the recording of all surface features, remote geophysical sensing for ferrous (FADE), non-ferrous (TSS) and other sub-bottom anomalies (SBI), and an environmental and marine biological site assessment contracted to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Three sacrificial frames containing metal and wood samples were buried offsite as part of an environmental studies programme. A preliminary report on the Phases 1-2 non-disturbance activities was provided to the MHF and MOD.
  • During these surveys, additional substantial damage to the site was documented and published in Balchin's Victory (Site 25C): Shipwreck Monitoring & Cannon Impacts, which was supplied to the MOD Advisory Group and subsequently released to the public and available here. Fishing related impacts included the dragging of cannon 230m away from the wreck mound. Since 2008, all areas of the site had been disturbed.
  • After receiving this report, the MOD Advisory Group requested a revision to the Project Design, which was to focus on the recovery of artefacts considered at risk. This document, HMS Victory, 1744 (Site 25C) – Project Design: Revision A described a programme for the recovery of artefacts at risk was accepted by the MHF and their Scientific Advisory Committee. It was submitted to the MOD in June 2012. The MHF was informed that the MOD is content in principle with the proposals for the recovery of surface artefacts.

2013

  • In January 2013, the MOD acknowledged to the Maritime Heritage Foundation the threats identified to the Victory site and sought agreement upon Key Management Principles prior to work being undertaken on the site.
  • The Maritime Heritage Foundation provided HMS Victory (Site 25C) Preliminary Results of the Non-Disturbance Shipwreck Survey, 2012 and HMS Victory (1744) Key Management Principles to the MOD in May 2013. The Key Management Principles were developed to enable work to progress to protect the site and artefacts, whilst providing assurances regarding high-standard archaeological principles that will be adhered throughout the course of the project.
  • The site continues to be at risk from nature and man, including documented ongoing fishing activities in the area and illegal looting.

2014

  • The results of the 2012 non-disturbance environmental and marine biology study are published, completing the Foundation and Odyssey’s commitment to a comprehensive non-disturbance study programme.
  • Two meetings are convened by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, the Minister of Culture, the MoD, the Maritime Heritage Foundation, the Receiver of Wreck and government advisors including English Heritage to discuss the most appropriate means of managing the Victory wreck site.
  • A revised 2014 Project Design specifying the Foundation’s overall plans for a phased approach to the study of Victory, starting with the recovery of at risk surface artefacts and related contexts, and incorporating Key Management Principles, is accepted by the UK Government.
  • The Maritime Heritage Foundation is currently waiting for permission from the Ministry of Defence and a license from the Marine Management Organisation in order to proceed with the recovery of at-risk, surface artifacts.

 

 

 

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