Wreck In Effect

February 2nd, 2009at 08:22pm Posted by Eli

Shipwreck Cannon
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc/AP


Sea explorers probing the depths of the English Channel have discovered what they say is a legendary British warship that sank in a fierce storm in 1744 with the loss of more than 900 men and possibly four tons of gold coins valued at $1 billion.

The team found the wreckage of the HMS Victory last year and confirmed its identity through a close examination of 41 bronze cannons visible on the sandy bottom, Greg Stemm, head of the discovery team, said at a news conference Monday in London.


In July 1744, the flagship and its fleet of warships were sent to rescue a Mediterranean convoy blockaded by a French fleet at Lisbon. After chasing the French away, the Victory escorted the convoy as far as Gibraltar and then headed home.

A furious gale scattered the British fleet shortly after it entered the English Channel, and on Oct. 5, 1744, somewhere off the Channel Islands, Victory went down with all hands. The flagship was the only part of the returning British fleet lost at sea.


A month after the loss, a Dutch newspaper reported that Victory had been carrying from Lisbon 400,000 pounds sterling destined for Dutch merchants. At the news conference, the ship’s finders said that would amount to about four tons of gold coins.

In the history of the Royal Navy, Victory was the last warship to be lost with a complete set of bronze cannons. Their high cost eventually prompted the British Admiralty to replace them with iron cannons.


Last April, the Odyssey team was exploring the English Channel when a sonar registered an intriguing blip. Investigations with a tethered robot showed the seabed covered with cannons, hull remains, iron ballast, two anchors, rigging, a copper cooking kettle and 41 bronze cannons, including eight of the four-ton guns.

“These were the biggest cannon in the age of sail,” Mr Stemm said at the news conference. “These things are huge — simply amazing.”

Odyssey released a 46-page analysis of the wreckage. It said the distinctive cannons — many of which display Royal arms surmounted by a crown — revealed their nationality and date of manufacture, and gave proof of the wreck’s identity. The powerful guns, the analysis added, made Victory “the preeminent warship of the age.”

At the wreck site, the Odyssey team also found human bones, including what appeared to be a rib bone, a skull and other remains. None were recovered, the analysis said, and the team’s robot carefully reburied any that had been uncovered.


At the news conference, Jason Williams, a television producer for the Discovery Channel, said four tons of gold coins would fetch about $125 million if melted down or $1 billion if sold for their historic value.

I have nothing to add to this, other than that it’s way way cool.  Plus there’s that whole billion dollars worth of gold coins thing.

Entry Filed under: Coolness

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