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Bronze cannon on the shipwreck site of HMS Victory
Measuring the bore hole of a 42-pounder bronze cannon on the shipwreck site of HMS Victory
The 42-pounder bronze cannon recovered from the shipwreck site of HMS Victory

HMS Victory Project Overview

One of the world's greatest maritime mysteries was solved when Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered the shipwreck of HMS Victory, lost in 1744 under the command of Admiral Sir John Balchin. The direct predecessor and inspiration behind Admiral Nelson's flagship, this Victory was the mightiest and most technically advanced vessel of her age. She was lost during a storm with all hands and was the last Royal Navy warship to be lost at sea with a complete complement of bronze cannon. Two of the greatest admirals in English history, Sir John Norris and Sir John Balchin called her their flagship. Research indicates that the Victory sank with a substantial amount of specie aboard.

Odyssey discovered the site nearly 100 km from where the ship was historically believed to have been wrecked on a reef near the Channel Islands. In an operation conducted in cooperation with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD), Odyssey has completed an archaeological pre-disturbance survey of the site, conducted limited test trenching, and recovered two bronze cannon to confirm the identity of the shipwreck. The cannon recovered include a 12-pounder featuring the royal arms of George II and a 4-ton, 42-pounder bearing the crest of George I. The huge 42-pounder recovered is the only known example of a gun of this type and size currently in existence on dry land. On September 18, 2009, Odyssey announced it reached an agreement with the UK Government on a salvage award for the cannon recovered from the site.

For more information about the preliminary survey and identification of the site, read Neil Cunningham Dobson's and Dr. Sean Kingsley's archaeological paper, HMS Victory, a First-Rate Royal Navy Warship Lost in the English Channel, 1744. Preliminary Survey & Identification (2009).

During these operations and on subsequent monitoring visits to the site, evidence was discovered of substantial damage to the site from natural deterioration, scouring, extensive fishing trawl net damage and the intrusion of modern trash and debris. Read more in Dr. Sean Kingsley's archaeological paper, Deep-Sea Fishing Impacts on the Shipwreck of the English Channel & Western Approaches (2009) as well as the archaeological paper Balchin's Victory (Site 25C): Shipwreck Monitoring & Cannon Impacts (2012).

In January 2012, following a period of consultation, the UK Ministry of Defence and the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport transferred future management responsibility of the Victory to the Maritime Heritage Foundation, a charity established to locate shipwrecks, investigate, recover and preserve artifacts to the highest archaeological standards and to promote knowledge and understanding of Britain’s maritime heritage. The Maritime Heritage Foundation reached an agreement with Odyssey Marine Exploration for the financing, archaeological survey and excavation, conservation and exhibit of the Victory and artifacts from the shipwreck site. As part of the agreement, Odyssey produced an extensive project design for the archaeological excavation of the site, including a plan for recording, documentation, conservation, publication and public education.

Details regarding the work completed as part Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the VIctory 1744 Project Design are available in the following papers: Gerhard Seiffert, Neil Cunningham Dobson, Frederick Van de Walle, Dr. Sean Kingsley, HMS Victory (Site 25C). Preliminary Results of the Non-Disturbance Shipwreck Survey, 2012 (2013); Anthony R. Prave, Donald A. Herd, Angus C. Calder & Stuart G. Allison, The Wreck of the First Rate Warship the Victory, Western English Channel: Site 25C Sediment Analysis (2013); Juan Antonio Morales González & Claudio Lozano Guerra-Librero, Dynamics of Sediment Bedforms in the Western English Channel: the Wreck of the Victory (Site 25C) in Context (2013).

The Maritime Heritage Foundation is currently waiting for permission from the Ministry of Defence and a license from the Marine Management Organisation in order to proceed with the recovery of at-risk, surface artifacts.

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