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Miscellaneous Blogs

Mary Rose Wreck Site Found Fifty Years Ago Today

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Fifty years ago today two divers – John Towse and the late Alexander McKee – pinpointed the whereabouts of King Henry VIII’s famous flagship.

McKee and Towse were members of Southsea BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club).“On May 14, 1966 Alex and myself visited the penultimate resting place of the Mary Rose.” John Towse

Alexander McKee’s widow stated “while we were living in Hamburg, he used to express his interest and admiration for the raising and preservation of Vasa – a Swedish warship – in 1961. I remember he said, ‘I want to make my mark in life.’ He has achieved that.”

John Towse wrote about the useful break that helped to find the ship. John and Alex discovered the location of the Mary Rose whilst looking at charts in Cricklewood. “There laid before Alex and myself was a magnificent hand-drawn chart [by the Deane brothers in 1836] of the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour. In a very short time and prompted by one of the Hydrographic Office staff, the actual charted site of the Mary Rose was clearly shown.”

In 1965 McKee initiated ‘Project Solent Ships’ in conjunction with Southsea BSAC. The aim was to investigate wrecks lost in the Solent. His real quest was to find the Tudor Warship and he was the driving force behind the hunt and discovery of this Tudor Battleship.

Many years of seabed searching followed. Cynics dubbed the wreck ‘McKee’s Ghost Ship’. Between 1968 and 1971 volunteer divers explored the Solent. They used sonar scans and plunged long steel rods into the soft mud until they struck timber. Then the team employed dredgers, water jets and airlifts to excavate a strange shape underneath the seabed. Alex Hildred, curator of the Mary Rose, confirmed that this was the first time that remote sensing technology sub-bottom profiling and side scan sonar had been used in England.Without Alexander McKee’s dedication and pioneering work, it is likely this ship would still be buried beneath the soft Solent mud. John Lippiett, the Rear Admiral who leads the Mary Rose Trust said “The project wouldn’t be what it is today without the foresight and inspiration of Alex and the divers.” (McKee’s stubbornness was later rewarded when he received the OBE for finding the Mary Rose).

“We were very fortunate that on the first dive of the year [5 May 1971] we slightly missed our target – the area that we had been searching. We were about 150 metres to the south. Percy Ackland, who I always called our underwater gun dog, came up and whispered to me, ‘The timbers are down there Margaret [Rule].’” Ackland had found three of the port frames of the Mary Rose. By some miracle half of the hull had been well preserved by Solent mud. It was as though someone had chainsawed through the wreck from bow to stern and the entire starboard side of the Mary Rose survived.

SOURCES

Mary Rose Website
Obituary of Margaret Rule, X-Ray Mag
The Portsmouth News
Culture 24

On 29th August 2014 BBC Radio 4 broadcast ‘The Reunion‘ with Sue MacGregor. Sue reunited some of the members of the team of marine archaeologists, divers and engineers who raised Henry VIII’s sunken battleship Mary Rose from the sea bed in 1982. This link goes to a RAM (Real Audio File) recording of that programme.

Roz is the Founder of The Underwater Marketing Company, Co-founder of EUROTEK, and established TEKDiveUSA. She is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, a BSAC Advanced Instructor, and a rebreather and Trimix diver. Before moving into the PR field she worked as a full time recreational instructor in the UK and abroad, on History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, as a safety diver, and modelled underwater.

Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review: Erebus – The story of a ship (2019)

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In a title of six words, Erebus: The story of a ship, Michael Palin tells us precisely what his book is all about. Through a comprehensive analysis of the Ship’s Logs and crew reports, personal letters, private and naval journals, books, papers and newspaper articles he documents the life of the ship and its crews. He traces their histories from the launch of the ship at Pembroke dock in 1826, via unremarkable Mediterranean patrols, lengthy voyages to Australia to bone chilling Antarctic and Arctic expeditions. They culminate in the last crew abandoning the ship, trapped in Arctic pack ice, in 1848.

However, Erebus: The story of a ship is more than a mere chronology of dates, actions and events. Michael Palin tells us a complex story. It’s an evolving story of the interpersonal relationships of those men serving on the ship; relationships that blossom and those that deteriorate. It includes accounts of influential men and women who shaped the voyages and crew selection. It also notes the impact of sponsors and suppliers who may have contributed to the final tragedy. It’s a story illustrated by Victorian photographs, other colour photographs and paintings, sonar images, maps and sketches. They all serve to provide a picture of the life and death of those on board HMS Erebus.

In 1846, during the heroic but ill-fated Franklin Expedition, HMS Erebus, her companion ship HMS Terror, captained by Francis Crozier, and a total of 129 men, “vanished off the face of the earth whilst trying to find a way through the Northwest Passage” (ppxii – xiii). This was the prized northern route to China and India via Arctic waters. HMS Erebus wasn’t seen again until one hundred and sixty-nine years later under thirty-six feet of Arctic water. Divers found the wreck remarkably intact as their description and photographs reveal.

Palin describes how the search for Erebus and her crew extended over decades – often suggesting missed opportunities as well as shocking findings. His summary account of the last desperate months and weeks of their survival, as the expedition disintegrated, is poignant in the extreme.

It’s tempting to describe the book as a slow burn that builds into an inferno – but words like ‘burn’ and ‘inferno’ are at odds with Palin’s descriptive account of the mind numbing cold of Arctic winters and a ship entombed in pack ice for years. Certainly, the pace of the early chapters appear relatively slow when compared to the final crescendo – but they provide an invaluable background to an understanding of the unfolding drama.

You don’t have to be a historian or a marine archaeologist, a sailor or traveller to marvel at the story of HMS Erebus and her crews. You don’t have to be a sentimentalist to read: ‘The one comfort from the whole unmitigated disaster was the news that bodies had been discovered far enough south to prove that Crozier had led his doomed men to the last link in the chain of marine connections that made up to Northwest Passage’ (p. 261).


Erebus: The story of a ship (2019)

  • By Michael Palin
  • London: Arrow Books        
  • ISBN 9781 784 758578     
  • 334 pp

Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous TV programmes; perhaps Monty Python is one of the most famous. He has made several acclaimed travel documentaries to the North and South Pole as well as the Sahara desert and the Himalayas. His books include Hemingway’s Chair (1998) and The Truth (2013). Between 2009 and 2012 he was President of the Royal Geographical Society. Michael Palin was knighted in 2019 and lives in London.


Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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Dive Training Blogs

My Dive Buddies Episode 1: Alejandro Dutto’s Best Wreck Dives! (Watch Video)

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My Dive Buddies Episode 1: Alejandro Dutto’s Best Wreck Dives!

The first in a new series, where I invite my local scuba diving buddies into the Dive Locker for a beer and a chat! This week I’m chatting with Alejandro Dutto, Co-Founder of the International Scuba Divers Club and Publisher of the digital scuba magazine ‘Trim.’ I know Alejandro is a man after my own heart. Before covid hit, we dived South Florida wrecks together frequently and I’m looking forward to getting back in the water with him.

But for now, I’m happy to have a beer with him and talk about our top three favourite South Florida Wreck Dives. Alejandro also talks about the challenges of filming at technical diving depths and about his new Spanish language dive magazine.

Please follow Alejandro’s channels here:

Thanks everyone! D.S.D.O James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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