Due to uncertainty around changing COVID regulations and the potential impact of sickness within our teams; NMRN may be required to adjust opening hours or close sites at short notice. Whilst all efforts will be made to avoid this and to contact ticket holders ahead of visits we do ask you to check our Facebook and Twitter accounts for details of closures. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding. 

Pre-booking is advised, and visitors must wear masks for their safety and the safety of others, unless exempt.

HMS Caroline remains temporarily closed. Find The Latest COVID-19 Updates Here.
 

 

Excavating Wrecks Part 2

Excavating wrecks - Should we, shouldn’t we?

Part 2 – To excavate, or not to excavate?

When we excavate an archaeological site we disturb it, by digging it up and removing the remains. The process can’t be reversed. So, Should archaeologists excavate a site even if by excavating there is a calculated risk that they may irreversibly change it?

Wrecks at risk & rescue archaeology

Our wrecks, the Fairy Barracuda and HMS Invincible are both important enough to give us an incredible amount of valuable information which is reason enough to conduct a careful planned excavation. However, they were also identified as wrecks ‘at risk’.

Rescue archaeology occurs on sites facing permanent damage. Sometimes when tide and storm action remove the protective seabed from around the wreck it can be lost in a surprisingly short amount of time. In other situations, excavation is carried is out in advance of construction.

In both situations archaeologists have to work quickly to survey and excavate to save the information hidden inside the wreck or site.

Archaeologists must record, record, record. They must measure every tiny detail so that even if parts of the site are lost it can be recreated or reconstructed virtually, for everyone to see.

HMS Invincible

HMS Invincible was originally built for the French navy in 1744, captured by the Royal Navy in 1747 it then sank in the Solent in 1758. Invincible’s design was a game-changer in the way naval ships were built from then on.

The Invincible site had been monitored by Historic England for many years and was thought to be increasingly vulnerable as the rapid loss of seabed sediments exposed large parts of the wreck and fragile artefacts.

There was an urgent need to record these areas of the ship and rescue the artefacts within, before they became too damaged. The Invincible excavations have vastly increased our knowledge and understanding of this important era in shipbuilding and the lives of the crew.

Fairey Barracuda

The Fairey Barracuda aircraft wreck was discovered by National Grid engineers during a seabed survey ahead of the installation of a new underwater electricity cable.

The location of the wreck lay on an immovable part of the cable route and meant it had to be excavated. The Solent Barracuda wreckage was largely intact on the seabed, but the remains were very fragile.

However, the components and structure were removed in stages and will now help the curators at the Fleet Air Arm Museum to recreate what will be the world’s only complete example of this type of aircraft.

The importance of conservation and excavation

Conservation projects such as this play an important part in how museums explain history, and provide a fantastic opportunity to understand more about a piece of wartime technology. Successes, failures and stories can be revealled when we understand artefacts better.

Excavation is just the start of a long process – in order to understand the wreck and its finds they must be preserved and conserved. Would you excavate a fragile wreck knowing that you would be irreversibly changing it as you dig? Do the circumstances justify this calculated risk?

Read Part 1

Catch up with the blog series so far and read part one.

Keep your eye out for the third and final part of this series.

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