THE Mary Rose could stop being sprayed with a protective wax coating next month, The News can reveal.
In a major milestone in the conservation of Henry VIII’s 500-year-old flagship, staff at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard are due to turn off the jets for the first time since she was raised from the Solent 30 years ago.
For almost three decades, the hull has been constantly sprayed with millions of litres of water and wax chemicals to prevent it from drying out and crumbling.
Experts at Cambridge University are examining samples of wood taken from the wreck to make a call on whether the ship is ready for the jets to be stopped.
John Lippiett, chief executive at the Mary Rose Trust, said: ‘We hope to stop spraying it next month.
‘We are reaching a critical stage now. We are taking core samples of the ship to see what is going on inside the wood. Those samples are with Cambridge University and Professor Mark Jones is up in Cambridge next week.
‘Providing they find the core of the wood has absorbed the wax, he will give us the thumbs up that we can turn off the sprays.’
It comes as building work continues on a new £35m Mary Rose Museum which will see the world-famous ship go back on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard later this year.
Prof Jones, who has worked on the conservation of the Mary Rose since 1982, said: ‘It’s a really exciting time in the Mary Rose’s history. We’re not only building the new museum but we’re also entering the final phase of conservation on the hull.
‘Core samples are being analysed and, based on the results, we will decide when to turn off the sprays – hopefully soon.’
He added: ‘The decision to switch off the sprays is a big one, as we must ensure the wood is properly conserved but it will be a major milestone for the dedicated team here at the trust.’
After the sprays are turned off, long tubes which pump out hot air will be placed inside the hull to set the wax – the final stage in preserving the wood for an estimated 70,000 years.
The drying-out process is due to last another four years, but visitors to the new museum will be able to see the ship through windows.
In 2016, the tubes and windows will be taken away so visitors can marvel at the Mary Rose’s hull with an unobstructed view.