Mary Rose marks major milestone in recovery anniversary

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HERITAGE bosses in Portsmouth have celebrated a major milestone anniversary in the historic raising of the Mary Rose.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the moment the giant floating crane Tog Mor arrived in the Solent.

The crane picking up the Mary Rose.  Picture by Christopher Dobbs

The crane picking up the Mary Rose. Picture by Christopher Dobbs

The arrival of the enormous piece of kit signalled the final phase of raising the Tudor warship from the seabed, which happened two months later.

And to mark the historic milestone, historians at the recently-refurbished Mary Rose Museum have brought a replica model of the crane into the heritage site.

The wooden design – which is about 2m long – will soon be available for visitors to get their hands on and learn just how the wreck of the Mary Rose was raised from the sea.

Chris Dobbs is one of the divers who was involved in the project to recover the sunken vessel. He is now the head of interpretation at the museum.

Christopher Dobbs, head of interpretation at the Mary Rose Museum Picture: Mary Rose Trust

Christopher Dobbs, head of interpretation at the Mary Rose Museum Picture: Mary Rose Trust

He said: ‘This day 35 years ago was enormously significant because it showed that the operation was going to happen.

‘This enormous lifting frame like an island in the middle of the Solent. It’s comparable in size to our new aircraft carrier.

‘It showed the people of Portsmouth that – after seeing our salvage vessel in the Solent since April 1979, to now suddenly see this enormous lifting crane used for north sea oil rigs, between Southsea and the Isle of Wight – this was finally about to happen.’

The crane was normally used in the construction of oil rigs in the North Sea.

It was sailed down to Portsmouth specifically to raise the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1982.

But the project to pave the way for the mega crane had been in operation since 1979.

It involved divers from the Mary Rose Trust salvage team and the Royal Engineers who spent more than 22,700 hours underwater, excavating the warship.

To mount the wreck to the lifting frame divers had to dig tunnels underneath the Mary Rose and connect it to the yellow structure using hundreds of wires.

The frame was then manoeuvred so the ship was resting on a cradle – an item it still rests in today – before it was lifted out of the water.

Chris added: ‘What was so amazing about this period of time is that we were doing all this work underwater.

‘Then suddenly on August 21 this enormous piece of kit arrives. That was when we thought “bloody hell, we’ve got to get on with this”.

‘It was such an ambitious thing to try to do and then to suddenly, in the middle of August, have the extra impetus of having this crane on site, hovering over us, was inspiring.’

The Mary Rose sank in 1545 and was discovered in 1971.

The model of the Tog Mor, which needs some renovation work on its electrics, is set to be on display in the next few weeks.

It comes ahead of the 35th anniversary of Mary Rose being raised from the seabed in October.

The museum aims to stage a number of celebrations in the run-up to this moment.

Chris said: ‘This is the fulfilment of a dream from all those diving on the salvage and excavation.’