The Loss of HMS Victory


On October 4, 1744 a British fleet led by HMS Victory carrying the flag of Admiral John Balchen encountered a ferocious storm in the Western Approaches of the English Channel. The fleet was dispersed with all ships arriving in port save Victory. A search was mounted. Captain Thomas Grenville, HMS Falkland, landed at Guernsey to replenish his supplies and discovered that wreckage from Victory had washed up there. This led to the belief that Victory had struck Black Rock, part of the Casquets, during the night and gone down with all hands.

Now Victory has been found.

In April 2008, Odessy Marine Explorations was conducting a search in the English Channel when sidescan sonar discovered indications of a wreck. They quickly discovered a 42-pounder cannon bearing the coat of arms of George I and a 12-pounder bearing the arms of George II. This quickly enabled the survey team to identify the wreck as that of an English ship of the line from the first half of the 18th century. This narrowed the list of possible candidates to one: HMS Victory.

It now appears that instead of being driven onto Black Rock, HMS Victory foundered in deep water. The wreck is located in a prime fishing area and has been severely degraded by fishing nets scraping the bottom.

Odessy Marine Explorations is now working closely with the British government to determine how to best excavate and preserve the wreck.

A complete report on the wreck is at the Odessy Marine Explorations website.

Marine archeology has moved forward in leaps and bounds since the days of Mel Fisher and the Atocha. Sidescan sonar, magnetic anomaly detectors, and deep sea robotics enable wrecks to be found more easily and documented and excavated in a manner which preserves the historical value as well as providing remuneration for the discoverers. Each discovery advances our knowledge of life aboard a man o’war during the Age of Sail.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Famous Ships, Shipwrecks and Marine Archaeology

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