Diving Deep - HMS Invincible

Built by the French in 1744, HMS Invincible was captured by the Royal Navy in 1747 and became the blueprint for all Royal Navy 74-gun ships.

The Story of a Shipwreck

On 19 February 1758, Invincible went aground on Horse Tail Sands, part of Dean and Horse Sands.

You can imagine the crew’s frantic attempts to re-float her. Any weighty objects were thrown overboard. Heavy casks of beer and water were hoisted out of the hold, emptied and thrown over the side. Six of her guns were jettisoned overboard.

Day turned to dusk and the chain on the main pump that was draining water from the hold broke. By midnight there was nearly three metres of water in the hold. In the early hours long boats and sloops came to retrieve more of the gunners’ stores and Quarter Deck and Upper Deck guns, and take them back to the dockyard.

Discovery and Excavation

The Invincible was rediscovered by a local Portsmouth fisherman, Arthur Mack and his friend Melvin Gofton while trawling the shallows of the Horse Tail sandbank, halfway between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight in 1979. Excavation of the site began shortly afterwards due to the shifting sands which made Invincible more vulnerable to damage.

Recovered items like buckets, rigging, shot and rope were treated and then the artefacts were sent off for conservation so that future generations can see what the Royal Navy of 1758 used on warships.