Mary Rose - History As A Shipwreck

History As A Shipwreck

A salvage attempt was ordered by Secretary of State William Paget only days after the sinking, and Charles Brandon, the king's brother-in-law, took charge of practical details. The operation followed the standard procedure for raising ships in shallow waters: strong cables were attached to the sunken ship and fastened to two empty ships, or hulks. At low tide, the ropes were pulled taut with capstans. When the high tide came in, the hulks rose and with them the wreck. It would then be towed into shallower water and the procedure repeated until the whole ship could be raised completely.

A list of necessary equipment was compiled by 1 August and included, among other things, massive cables, capstans, pulleys, and 40 pounds of tallow for lubrication. The proposed salvage team comprised 30 Venetian mariners and a Venetian carpenter with 60 English sailors to serve them. The two ships to be used as hulks were the Jesus of Lübeck and Samson, each of 700 tons burthen and similar in size to the Mary Rose. Brandon was so confident of success that he reassured the king that it would only be a matter of days before they could raise the Mary Rose. However, the optimism proved unfounded. Since the ship had settled at a 60 degree angle to starboard much of it was stuck deep into the clay of the seabed. This made it virtually impossible to pass cables under the hull and required far more lifting power than if the ship had settled on a hard seabed. An attempt to secure cables to the main mast appears only to have resulted in its being snapped off.

The project was only successful in raising rigging, some guns and other items. At least two other salvage teams in 1547 and 1549 received payment for raising more guns from the wreck. Despite the failure of the first salvage operation, there was still lingering belief in the possibility of retrieving the Mary Rose at least until 1546, when she was presented as part of the illustrated list of English warships called the Anthony Roll. When all hope of raising the complete ship was finally abandoned is not known. It could have been after Henry VIII's death in January 1547 or even as late as 1549, when the last guns were brought up. The Mary Rose was remembered well into the reign of Elizabeth I, and according to one of the queen's admirals, William Monson (1569–1643), the wreck was visible from the surface at low tide in the late 16th century.

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