Skip to comments.Preserving the Mary Rose
Posted on 03/28/2014 1:01:25 PM PDT by neverdem
The Tudor battleship has been stabilised and is now on display in a new museum. Jon Evans explores the chemistry stopping those timbers shivering
To avoid potentially damaging shrinkage, the hull was sprayed with water for about 12 years, then with PEG for 19 years © Peter Phipp / Travelshots.com / Alamy In many ways, the sea has not been particularly kind to the Mary Rose, the flagship of Henry VIIIs navy when it faced an invading French fleet at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour in July 1545. For a start, it engulfed the ship, with the loss of over 350 men.
The French claimed to have holed the Mary Rose, but there is no real evidence for this. In reality, the sinking was probably a combination of bad luck and bad seamanship. The Mary Rose was the first ship to sail out and engage three French galleys that had broken away from the fleet, during which it fired its guns. For some reason, the gun ports were then left open, allowing seawater to rush in as the Mary Rose manoeuvred, sinking it...
(Excerpt) Read more at rsc.org ...
The hull is pretty much shot, but the artifacts are amazing.
The hull may not look like much, but to someone who understands marine architecture and construction during the age of sail, what is left is a remarkable display of how these ships were built as well as how they were sailed and fought. They were the most complex piece of machinery known to mankind at the time. The construction differences between Mary Rose and her neighbor in Portsmouth, HMS Victory are relatively minor although the form itself evolved as marine architecture became more scientific.
Warbows are a particular interest of mine. Many were found on the Mary Rose, despite the fact that this was some time after the great days of the longbow. These are the only actual warbows we have from the period.
Excellent article on the subject.
A lot of the same factors were probably in play 75 years later in Sweden.
Thank you for posting. Henry the 8th cried when he witnessed the sinking of the Mary Rose. Possibly the first and last time he ever felt empathy for anything.
The crew members were big men who seemed to have some sort of onset scoliosis like Richard the Third. That may be because of the strenuous activities of the crewmembers and archers who were aboard.
Intriguing stuff. That is some dedicated team working on the preservation!
I looked it over pretty good back in the 90s and you are right, the hull is shot but their were a ton of cool artifacts. I believe they had her set up in an od drydock IIRC.
Just a guess, here from my own experience below decks on the USS Constellation (sister ship to Old Ironsides, iirc). While topside, there was plenty of room for a six-foot tall guy, below decks I had to walk hunched over to avoid hitting my head on the beams. Spend months or years of strenuous activity in 'short' quarters, and that'd affect your back.
I'd imagine there were few green recruits aboard the state-of-the-art flagship, hence the occupational injuries, and it is unlikely sleeping in hammocks would provide much relief.
Those who worked aloft would tend to be younger and their bodies would be carried away by currents more than those below decks, so the preservation bias would be for the bodies of the guncrews.
The Navy was manned quite differently in Henry VIII’s day. The only true seamen where those required to handle sails and rigging - the men in the tops, and weather decks. All the rest were landsmen, soldiers really, and they manned the guns and all of the other weapons as well as providing the general labor. The seamen came from the merchant fleets and went back to them when the campaigning season was over.
I think that one just blew up during a battle? One survivor was blown way up and over the battle, saw it in bird’s-eye view, and landed safely in the sails of another ship. I think it was...
I must have been a mammoth undertaking to excavate it underwater, as well as the conservation which had to go on continously and simultaneously.
Wasn’t the Vasa. Sank just a few minutes into its maiden voyage, right there in Stockholm harbor.
I would think, given the state of firearms technology in the time of Henry VIII, that warbows would be far more effective for ship to ship close combat than the muskets of the day.
Possibly. But my point was that there were probably a lot fewer men around capable of handling the full-out warbows of a century before.
The 140 or so warbows on the Mary Rose varied in draw weight from 100 to 180 pounds, with most around 150/160.
Pulling a bow like this many times during battle, much less with enough control to hit anything, is not something one picks up in a few weeks of military basic training.
Only those who had essentially spent their whole lives training for this would have the physical strength, endurance and skill to do it.
My assumption, which is believe is pretty reasonable, is that there were a lot fewer of such men around in 1545 when the Mary Rose sank that at Agincourt in 1415.
The bow was no longer a dominating weapon on the battlefield, as seen by the English expulsion from France, so why would enough men pursue the lifelong dedication required to master it? Certainly not in the many thousands needed to field an effective army.
I suppose the men left who could handle those bows were the few, the proud, the marines. :-))
Just reading about all of the chemical reactions they had to be on guard for during the restoration had my head spinning.
Probably the last hurrah of war archery in the western world was at Lepanto.
The archers here were the Ottomans using their composite bows, the eastern equivalent of the English longbow, probably with roughly equivalent draw weights and shooting distances.
The Catholic forces depended mostly on firearms for distance weapons, though there were no doubt quite a few crossbows around.
It is believed so many Turkish archers died at Lepanto that it essentially changed the balance of power in the Med. The Turks rebuilt their fleet in just a few years, but replacing tens of thousands of lifelong archers was not so easy.
That vasa a bad day.