Monday, February 2, 2009
Wreck of renowned British warship found in Channel
A Bronze cannon on the shipwreck site of HMS Victory bearing the royal crest of King George I, in the English Channel
The shipwrecked predecessor to Lord Nelson's HMS Victory has been found!
Wreck of HMS Victory 'recovered from Channel'
The shipwrecked predecessor to Lord Nelson's HMS Victory, which is thought to contain millions of pounds' worth of gold, is thought to have been found at the bottom of the English Channel.
The ship, the fourth of six HMS Victories, sunk with its 1,150 sailors in October 1744 around The Casquets, a group of rocks off the Channel Islands. Among other valuable artefacts, it is thought to contain 100,000 gold coins.
After months of secrecy, Odyssey Marine Exploration, a US company, is expected to confirm on Monday that the ship, codenamed "Legend", that it found in the area in May last year is in fact the Victory.
The announcement, at a press conference at Canary Wharf in London, is set to open a row over the contents of the ship, which is thought to be lying in international waters. Because it is a military wreck, the ship is protected by "sovereign immunity" and belongs to the state.
It is thought the company struck a deal with the Government over a $500million (£346million) haul recovered from the wreck of the 17th-century HMS Sussex in the Strait of Gibraltar in 2007.
This is the new HMS VICTORY that was Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar. She was built to replace the lost ship. It is the only ship of its era to survive and is property of the Royal Navy to this day in the UK.
The move infuriated the Spanish government, which suspected the treasure - 500,000 gold and silver coins - had been taken from Spanish waters without permission.
If the British Government arranges a similar agreement over the Victory, it could be in breach of a UN convention on nautical archaeology, which aims to preserve underwater heritage. Britain will soon be a signatory to the convention and has agreed to abide by it in the meantime.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence was reported to have told a newspaper that the Government would "negotiate" with the company. A spokesman would only say that "no intrusive action may be taken without the express consent of the United Kingdom".
Odyssey has raised at least 16 brass cannons from the wreck appearing to be from the Victory. Experts estimate the ship's 100 guns would now be worth between £10,000 and £20,000. It is also thought to be searching for the ship's gold coins.
Mike Williams, a law lecturer at Wolverhampton University and a member of the Nautical Archaeology Society, said: "If we allow Odyssey to go ahead with this operation, it will cause an uproar."
Odyssey Marine Exploration could not be reached for comment.
Painting by Peter Monamy
The doomed flagship, which was returning from the Mediterranean after a skirmish with the French fleet, went down on 4 October 1744 after becoming separated from accompanying vessels. It is thought to have sunk after hitting Black Rock on the Casquets, off the island of Alderney. The ship's last moments were immortalised in an oil painting by Peter Monamy now at the National Maritime Museum. The warship known as "the finest ship in the world", went down with all hands and its exact location has remained a mystery for more than 250 years. Frigates searched for the lost ship, but to no avail; eventually parts of the topmast were washed up on Guernsey. The Victory was built in Portsmouth and launched in 1737. It became the flagship of the Channel fleet in 1741 and was the last British first-rate vessel to be armed entirely with brass cannon..
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