Friday, 17 July 2015

Odyssey: "Looting Threatens HMS Victory"

HMS Victory, the greatest warship of its day and the immediate predecessor to Nelson’s ship of the same name, was lost in 1744 in the English Channel. The wreck was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2008 nearly 65 miles from where the ship was historically believed to have been wrecked. 
The wreck lies in international waters but because of rules concerning sovereign warships the Government must consent to recovery plans.
Now new evidence has been revealed of the looting of a cannon from a French ship La Marquise de Tourny, thought to have sunk in the 1850s, and of lead ingots with a scrap value of more than $1 million from a 19th century steamship. The cannon was later found in a Dutch scrapyard. It is feared HMS Victory, described by experts as one of the most important shipwrecks in British history, could be next on the scavengers’ hit list. Dr Sean Kingsley, a marine archaeologist and director of Wreck Watch International who is also a consultant to Odyssey Marine Exploration, said: ‘[...] ‘The most important finds simply must be removed from harm’s way so everyone can visit them in a national museum. Saving Victory is a race against time. The UK stands at a crucial watershed in protecting wrecks in international seas.’  [...] ‘It’s an illusion to think historic wrecks are frozen in time and space just because they lie miles offshore.’ 
 Interestingly, nobody from the UK has suggested setting up an underwater PAS to allow the looting to go on but "save the information". Why not?  It is time to do something about artefact hunting and metal theft in general.

David Wilkes, 'Race to save priceless artefacts from the sunken HMS Victory after looters target its two nearest wrecks in the English Channel' Mail online 16 July 2015

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