The rudder of the 250-year-old British warship, the HMS Invincible, was located on May 24, 2022, after five years of shipwreck excavation at the bottom of the Solent – a small section of the English Channel that flows between the Isle of Wight and the southern coast of mainland England.
Originally a French ship dubbed L'Invincible, the first HMS Invincible was built in 1744. However, her time serving in the French Navy was cut short on May 3, 1747, when she was captured by the British in the first Battle of Finisterre.
Unfortunately, a series of adverse events led to the Invincible's demise in 1757 as she was setting out for a voyage to Louisbourg (modern-day Nova Scotia). She wrecked on a shallow sand bar, seven meters (23 feet) below the surface. There she stayed for more than two centuries before the wreck was discovered by local fishermen in 1979.
Archaeologists and divers from Bournemouth University and the Marine Archaeology Sea Trust began excavating the wreck in 2017 but were unable to locate the rudder until late May 2022 when it was found approximately sixty meters (197 feet) from the main wreck site.
“We have conducted several routine surveys of the seabed, and had previously noted an anomaly in the sand, which I suspected could have been the rudder. Since then, natural erosion of the sand has revealed more of its secrets and our divers have finally been able to confirm where it has been hiding the missing piece of the puzzle.”Dr. Dan Pascoe, archeologist at Bournemouth University
Dr. Rachel Bynoe from the University of Southampton and Heather Anderson of the Maritime Archaeology Trust were the first from the Bournemouth marine dive team to see the rudder. Then, a second diving expedition from Bournemouth University captured images and video footage of the new discovery.
Well-preserved under the sea
The rudder is whole and is over 11 meters (36 feet) long from top to bottom. It is in good condition, although now that it has been exposed to the elements in the sea, there is an increased risk of deterioration and damage.
“In the short term we are going to bury it with sandbags to protect it from further erosion, "Dr. Pascoe explained, "then longer-term our team is looking into whether it can be brought to the surface and preserved safely.”