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Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust Calling for Volunteers to Help With HMS Invincible Research

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Diver holding an intact tampion block which would have been used to plug the muzzle of one of Invincible's 32lb cannons (Photo: Mike Pitts)

The UK's Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST), in partnership with Bournemouth University, is calling for volunteers to assist in the underwater excavation of HMS Invincible 1744.

Invincible, built by the French in 1744 and captured by the Royal Navy in 1747, sank in the Solent in 1758. Her special design, unique lines and 74-gun capacity were copied and her class became the model for the Royal Navy’s fleet until sailing vessels were replaced by steamships.

Since 2017, a dedicated team of archaeological divers guided by Dan Pascoe, the site’s licensee, has been working against time in the Solent to reveal the wreck’s secrets in what MAST describe as 'the country’s most significant maritime archaeology project since the 1980s'.

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HMS Invincible was the class model for British warships until the Age of Steam

MAST and The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) have recently been awarded a £360,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, which will fund a three-year programme of events across the region. Cutting-edge digital resources and major exhibitions will be held with the aim of taking these stories from the seabed to the land.

The recording and excavating of the remains of the Invincible will help to fill the missing links in naval history between the Tudor flagship Mary Rose (raised in 1982) and Nelson's HMS Victory, launched in 1765 and now preserved as a museum ship in Portsmouth. Invincible's remains represent the most complete and best preserved of a warship from the mid-18th century. The site, which lies between the Isle of Wight and Langstone Harbour, holds invaluable clues to both French and British ship design, technologies and shipboard life.

MAST's chief executive, Jessica Berry, said: 'Invincible provided the model for the backbone of the Royal Navy right up to the end of the Age of Sail, the maintenance of her class of ship triggering the Industrial Revolution that began in Britain’s dockyards. This is a fascinating project and we are hugely grateful to the HLF for assuring splendid resources are being made available to the project. Up until now, our hard-working divers have totalled 79,761 minutes, over 72 days during 1,011 dives. We are now able to look forward to another very productive season.'

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The HMS Invincible archaeological dive team (Photo: Mike Pitts)

MAST are looking to recruit up to 34 volunteers across a range of disciplines, to be based around Portsmouth and Poole. Tasks will include:

  • Recording and assisting with finds
  • Getting hands-on to conserve the 100s of artefacts already recovered which are undergoing conservation in Poole
  • Researching the artefacts and stories to feature in digital resources
  • Assisting in preparation of major exhibitions at Chatham Historic Dockyard and The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
  • Helping at events to inspire people with these stories

The first appointments to the project team have already been made, with Community Archaeology Producer Eileen Clegg of the National Museum, Senior Archaeologist Giles Richardson of MAST, and Bournemouth University maritime archaeologist Kevin Stratford taking the lead.

The last dive season on the wreck is due to commence April 2019 and will hopefully yield many more amazing artefacts. Matthew Sheldon, Director of Heritage at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: 'Seeing the technologies which the project’s archaeologists and dive team use to understand this amazing wreck has been fascinating – almost better than being there. I’m really looking forward to our team now sharing these with people inside and outside the museum.'

To learn more about the project and how to get involved as a volunteer, interested parties are invited to join representatives from the project at Action Stations, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on 6 November, where Dan Pascoe will present 'The Excavation of the Royal Navy’s first Invincible.' You can find out more at www.nmrn.org.uk, and to register an interest, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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