Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

'Utmost respect' for sunken wreck

Artist's impression of how HMS Victory may have looked
More than 1,000 sailors died when the Victory sank in 1744

A US firm has said it will excavate the sunken wreck of a Royal Navy warship with "utmost respect".

Concerns were raised by Alderney's president about the "desecration" of what is believed to be HMS Victory, wrecked off the island in 1744.

Odyssey Marine Exploration found the wreck 100km (62 miles) from the Channel Islands in 2008.

It has recovered two cannons and is talking to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) before further finds are taken.

More than 1,000 sailors drowned when the British warship, the predecessor to Lord Nelson's Victory, sank in a storm.

Alderney's President Sir Norman Browse, who is also chairman of Alderney Maritime Trust, said: "We fear that a wreck of great historical importance, and a war grave, will be desecrated and that information about the British Navy from the first half of the 18th Century will be lost for ever."

Trust welcomed

But Aladar Nesser of Florida-based Odyssey replied in a statement: "The site has been treated with the utmost respect and diligent adherence to strict archaeological protocols."

He said the project had been conducted by "highly experienced and qualified archaeologists in close co-ordination with the Ministry of Defence".

The two bronze cannons, measuring 12ft (3.6m) and weighing four tonnes, had been raised with the permission of the MoD and were being looked after by the MoD at Odyssey's expense.

He said that Odyssey "welcome the involvement of the Alderney Trust going forward".

HMS Victory, which had been the largest in the fleet and was armed with 110 cannons, provided the inspiration for the ship which was commanded by Admiral Nelson and later by Guernsey-born Admiral Saumarez.

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