Shipwrecks and diving below the waves have long captured the imagination, so when the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Community Archaeologist Eileen Clegg described new exhibition Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 as the closest to “diving without getting wet” we knew it would be something special.
It’s a brand-new interactive exhibition packed with objects saved from the seabed; lots of hands-on fun for the family (all with lashings of hand sanitiser) and a fascinating display that tells the story of HMS Invincible, one of the most famous warships never heard of!
Invincible was a game-changer in the way ships were built and influenced the design of one of the world’s most famous and enduring warships HMS Victory – which sits alongside the exhibition in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
She was originally built for the French navy but captured by the British in 1747. Sadly, she sank in 1758 when she hit a sandbank in the East Solent, the body of water along the Hampshire south coast. She languished there until rediscovered by a local fisherman, Arthur Mack, nearly 200 years later.
In a race against tide and times, the ship was excavated underwater by a team of divers, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Full of stores, provisions and equipment, the team recovered significant finds such as swivel guns, a gun port lid, the main stay and even a mop head and bucket. It’s probably the most important underwater archaeological excavation of its kind in UK waters for nearly 40 years, after the raising of the Mary Rose.
One of the more intriguing finds were wig curlers, also on display, as officers onboard were very keen to maintain standards in appearance! One of the hands-on displays even challenge visitors to have-a-go at curling some hair.
The exhibition uses the latest in digital technology to bring the often unseen and mysterious world of underwater excavation to life in a really inventive way. Visitors are surrounded by a massive three screen projection that showcases new ways of filming underwater.
The exhibition is open for a year and tickets must be pre-booked at www.historidockyard.co.uk/tickets. Buy an Ultimate Explorer today, and be ready for when the doors re-open after lockdown.
Replicas of Invincible’s artefacts already grace the gun decks of Victory and ticket holders can visit both the exhibition, Victory and the neighbouring Mary Rose Museum which is home to the world-famous Tudor shipwreck raised from the seabed in 1982.