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1982: Mary Rose rises after 437 years

The Mary Rose, flagship of King Henry VIII, has been raised to the surface after 437 years at the bottom of the Solent.

The long-anticipated 4 million operation, twice postponed, was beset by technical problems with the complicated salvaging apparatus and floating cradle.

But the ship's skeletal remains of mud-caked timber were in the end successfully re-floated and experts can now begin the long process of restoring the Mary Rose in a dry dock in Portsmouth.

A flotilla of boats had gathered off Portsmouth on the south coast of England to witness the occasion.

With the ship already suspended underneath a lifting frame, today's work required raising the wreck in a specially crafted air-cushioned cradle.

Historic moment

Lifting of the wreck from its location at 50 feet below sea level began at 0700 local time and within two hours the first jagged edges of timber had broken the surface.

A cannon was fired from the ramparts of Southsea Castle to signal the historic moment.

Yet just before midday one of the pins holding the lifting frame sheared, a steel line snapped and part of the 80 tonne frame smashed down on the hull.

Speaking after the accident, Prince Charles, President of the Mary Rose Trust, and a seasoned diver at the wreck spoke of his shock:

"I was slightly horrified but I thought the best thing to do was to be British and not panic."

Inspections showed the damage to be slight, but further mishaps meant the wreck was not safely installed onto its transport barge until 1500.

Margaret Rule, archaeological director of the privately-sponsored project said the raising of the "fascinating and rare Tudor artefact" was the culmination of a "dream that had gripped the imagination of the world".

The Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1966 by Alexander McKee, a historian and amateur diver.

Since then over 10,000 well-preserved items have been excavated including weapons, clothes and even a backgammon set.

In Context
Launched in 1510, the Mary Rose sank on its way to engage the French enemy fleet off Portsmouth Sound in 1545.

Most marine historians believe her sinking was simply the result of a handling error. At the time the French assumed it was their cannons. Between four and five hundred men perished.

She is unique as a transitional ship between mediaeval "floating castles" and Elizabeth I's navy galleons.

19th century Royal Engineers blew up part of the Mary Rose as a "hazard to shipping". In 1980 RE divers began helping to raise the wreck to "atone" for their predecessors' work.

The Mary Rose now forms part of a museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.


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