Frequently Asked Questions

October 2014


What was HMS Victory - 1744?
The direct predecessor and inspiration behind Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory was launched in 1737 as the mightiest and most technically advanced vessel of her age. She sank with all hands in 1744 during a storm and was the last Royal Navy warship lost at sea with a complete set of bronze cannon. The shipwreck was located in 2008 more than 100km from where the ship was thought lost.

Who owns the Victory shipwreck site?
The vessel and associated materials belonging to the Crown were transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the Maritime Heritage Foundation in January 2012.

What is the Maritime Heritage Foundation (MHF)?
A charitable trust (Registered Charity Number: 1141244) whose objectives are to locate, excavate, recover and/or preserve shipwrecks for the education and benefit of the United Kingdom.

What are the future plans for HMS Victory-1744?
In October 2014, the Secretary of State for Defence gave consent to the Maritime Heritage Foundation to proceed with the next phase of the Foundation’s Project Design. This decision is also supported by the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy. The Foundation’s plan for the site is set out in the Non-Technical Summary and Key Management Principles from the approved Project Design.

Why was Odyssey Marine Exploration, an American company, awarded the contract to conduct archaeological work on the project?
Odyssey Marine Exploration is based in the United States but is an international company with many members of its archaeological and technical team made up of UK and EU citizens. The company discovered the shipwreck and has been monitoring and surveying the site at its own cost since 2008. Odyssey has a proven scientific track record as a leader in conducting deep-ocean archaeological excavations using robotic technology. To read all of their archeological reports, including many on shipwrecks located in the English Channel, click here.

In addition, Odyssey has agreed to finance the work outlined in this phase of the project design having already financed the monitoring survey of the site to prevent future loss of cultural remains and knowledge.

Is the shipwreck site really in danger?
There is documented evidence of cannon being dragged up to 230m away from the wreck mound. Some cannon have been broken, others have been extensively scratched and moved around the site since 2008. Hull remains have disappeared and at least one cannon has been illegally looted by Dutch salvors. For more information, please see the threats section of this website and view the virtual dive trail.

Can't the UK Government protect the site?
The site is outside UK territorial waters and there is no legal or practical mechanism available to protect it from fishing impacts or looting as evidenced by the documented damage and theft that has occurred.

Were other options for the site considered?
A public consultation was held in 2010 by the MOD and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider all options for the site.

Is there a large quantity of coins on the site?
More importantly, the site is likely to contain a collection of artefacts of priceless historical and archaeological value that should be recovered for the benefit and education of society.

Expert opinions differ on the existence of bullion at the site. Historical records indicate there may have been 400,000 pounds sterling (1744 value) aboard the Victory when it sank. Discussion and analysis can be found on pages 37- 39 of HMS Victory, a First-Rate Royal Navy Warship Lost in the English Channel, 1744. Preliminary Survey & Identification (2009). An archaeological desk-based assessment produced by Wessex Archaeology (commissioned by English Heritage on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) found no evidence of any government bullion shipment and thus concluded concluded a significant quantity of valuable bullion or prize cargo was unlikely to be present on the site. Until an archaeological excavation is conducted, we will not know for sure how many and what types of coins, if any, will be found on the site.

What will happen to the artefacts recovered from Victory?
All artefacts recovered from the wreck will be declared to the Receiver of Wreck in accordance with existing legislation to determine ownership and will be conserved and comprehensively documented, studied and publicly exhibited. Related survey, excavation and specialist reports will be published. Artefacts transferred under the deed of gift that are recovered and accessioned from the wreck will be combined with the associated archive, including site plans, drawings and photographs to form The Victory 1744 Collection that will be managed and curated in line with the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics for Museums (2008).

Who will supervise work on the site?
Work will be supervised by The Maritime Heritage Foundation and their Scientific Advisory Committee, chaired by marine archaeologist Dr. Margaret Rule. Regular and extensive reporting will be provided to the MOD as part of the agreed Key Management Principles for the project. The MOD and the MHF’s Scientific Advisory Committee may also appoint a marine archaeologist to observe field or conservation work.

What happened to the two cannon that were recovered in 2008?
At the direction of the MOD, the cannon (a 42-pounder and a 12-pounder) were presented to the UK Receiver of Wreck. Odyssey was granted a salvage award of 80% as compensation for the cannon, totaling approximately £94,000. Odyssey donated £44,000 of the salvage award to support the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Odyssey assisted with the initial conservation of the guns before they were transferred to the MOD. The cannon are now on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard having had additional conservation from experts at West Dean College.

What else has been recovered from the site?
No artefacts have been recovered from the Victory wreck site by Odyssey since the two cannon were recovered (with MOD permission) in 2008. Since then at least one cannon has been illegally looted from the site by a Dutch salvage company (2011).

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