When the word ‘shipwreck’ is uttered, one’s mind automatically goes back to the horrendous tragedy of the sinking of the ‘Titanic’ in 1912. The ship hit an iceberg during her maiden voyage. Over 1,500 passengers lost their lives. Indeed, images from the well-known film immediately come to mind. Here we shall talk about two other famous wrecks.
The ‘Mary Rose’ shipwreck
Firstly, a very famous shipwreck took place in July 1545, during a naval battle against the French. King Henry VIII’s flagship, the ‘Mary Rose’, was named after his younger sister Princess Mary. The ship suddenly sank in full view of the King. Several theories exist about the event. In particular, one is that although she had been built to carry heavy cannons, stability was affected. Whereas subsequent investigation has shown that the cannon portholes had been left open, thereby allowing the sea to enter. However, it has also been suggested that the damage resulted from a direct hit by a French cannonball.
In 1836 there was only a theory about the shipwreck’s location. Identification in 1971 confirmed the site. While her whereabouts were now known, she was not brought to the surface until 1982. This exercise entailed a great many difficulties. During investigations, it was discovered that over 19,000 objects had been conserved on the ship. A sort of time capsule, thus enabling an insight into the Tudor period. Many bows and arrows survived. Moreover, the lime consistency of the seabed had protected objects such as wood, leather, silk, wool and bone. Even peppercorns, seeds and the remains of a rat ! Many items reflected the social order on board. Wooden plates and mugs for the crew; pewter for the officers’ mess, some embossed with crests. Even the skeleton of the ship’s dog was found, believed to be the ‘ratter’ as well as the ship’s mascot.
The ‘Vasa’ shipwreck
Secondly, another famous historic shipwreck is that of the ‘Vasa’. The Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus had ordered the building of one of the world’s biggest warships. Armed with 64 guns on two decks, the ship was an imposing sight. It had highly ornate carvings and decorative woodwork. Yet she sank off Stockholm within minutes of her maiden voyage in August 1628. The shipwreck was attributed to her top-heavy upper gundeck and narrow hull. These defects again led to instability. Nearly 300 years passed before her whereabouts were finally identified in 1956. This second shipwreck was eventually salvaged in 1961, an event broadcast live on television. Full restoration took another thirty years. She appeared on public display in 1990.
A threat now hangs over both the ‘Mary Rose’ and the ‘Vasa’. To specify, there is an increasing build-up of sulphuric acid and iron in their dry timbers. This could eventually lead to serious consequences. Scientists are doing their utmost of prevent the disintegration of these hisoric ships.
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The idea of a ship being feminine is an old maritime tradition. The exact origin is unknown. In addition, the presence of a woman on board was believed by sailors to bring bad luck.