The day the Mary Rose was raised. | The Mary Rose
The day the Mary Rose was raised.
Collections | 07 Feb, 2023 | The Collections Team
Where Were You in 82?

Having tunnelled under the Mary Rose to prepare for its raising 40 years ago in October 1982, Kester Keighley now shares his experience of the day of the raising.

The next phase was the lift, which was divided into a number of controlled stages, monitored by tell-tales placed on the hull at specific places to ensure that no part of the hull bore excessive stresses.  The first stage was to hydraulically jack the Underwater Lifting Frame (ULF) up its legs with the Mary Rose hanging beneath (Figure 1.1 & Figure 3).  This measure of control was absolutely vital to overcome the enormous suction caused by the seabed mud and soft silts and was monitored by divers checking that the hull was being raised evenly off the seabed centimetre by centimetre.  Figure 2 shows the ULF before deployment.

A diagram showing the Mary Rose being removed from the seabed and onto the cradle.

Figure 1 Diagrammatic explanation of the process of lifting the hull out of the seabed and onto the cradle

A flat barge with yellow poles projecting from each corner. This is the barge with the upper Lifting frame suspended directly below it.

Figure 2 ULF suspended below barge for tow out and positioning 16th June

A lot of rubber pipes running out of a grey box, while a man pulls a lever

Figure 3 Bill Summer (Byggwik) operating hydraulic pumps for jacking operations on the ULF

In the meantime, the cradle, designed and engineered to receive the hull of the Mary Rose, was placed on the seabed nearby (Figure 4). 

Barge with Lifting Cradle on top

Figure 4 Cradle prior to deployment to seabed ready for receiving Mary Rose hull & ULF

The next stage (Figure 1.2 and 1.3) was the underwater lift and transfer of the hull, hanging below the ULF, from its original position in the seabed into a cradle (Figure 5).  This was the second operation using the crane barge Tog Mor and the transfer was guided using acoustic transponders to monitor the position of the ULF and hull during its transfer to the cradle.  The final docking was achieved using divers positioned on the cradle to guide the legs into position, as only three of the four legs could be docked because the north-east leg was accidently bent during the transfer, having caught on the seabed.  Eventually the offending leg was cut off underwater by the Royal Engineer divers and the corner of the ULF was then suspended using an extra fly-hook from Tog Mor.

The upper lifting cradle visible just below the water's surface, just about to raise the Mary Rose.

Figure 5 ULF with the Mary Rose hanging below during the underwater transfer. Note the two yellow vertical poles near Tog Mor marks the cradle’s position

The next stage (Figure 1.3) was the final lift to surface of the cradle, complete with ULF and hull, and landing this package onto a barge for the final journey bringing the Mary Rose home to Portsmouth (Figure 6).  Anyone who watched documentaries or newsclips about the salvage will be aware that during the final lift out of the water there was an unforgettable, heart-stopping crunch when the south-east corner of the ULF slipped down its leg to the level of the hull.  A tubular pin used to restrain the leg had given way, and the sheath or collar which connected the ULF to the leg had slipped by more than a metre.  Fortunately, no damage was done to the hull.  The lift continued and by teatime on Monday 11th October the whole package was safely landed on the barge and Tog Mor’s crane hook could be disconnected.

A shipwreck in a large yellow cradle just resting on the surface of the sea.

Figure 6 The total package on surface made up of the cradle, ULF and the hull of the Mary Rose

My last dive on the Mary Rose was with Christopher Dobbs on the Monday morning of October 11th and we were tasked with checking and inflating the airbags, which acted as a cushion between the underside of the hull and the cradle.  Fifteen minutes after I came out of the water the heart-stopping crunch happened.

From Easter, come and experience the ‘crash’ for yourself at ‘Dive the Mary Rose 4D’, along with virtually exploring the Mary Rose at the wreck site during discovery, excavations, and its iconic raising