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Royal Navy to aid search for Solent archaeology

Ok, so they're doing it for their own ends, because they might have to dredge some of it. But they could find all sorts of Prehistoric Stuff.

Wrecks and ‘drowned’ prehistoric settlements may be among the mysteries of the Solent that could be discovered during the most scientifically advanced survey of the area, being undertaken by the Royal Navy.

New hi-tech equipment is being used to produce pictures of what is on and below the seabed in an area that will have to be dredged if it is chosen as the new route into Portsmouth Naval Base for the navy’s new and much larger generation of aircraft carriers.

The geophysical survey – part of a £150-£200 million Portsmouth regeneration scheme – is being conducted by the RN Hydrographic surveying squadron’s smallest vessel, the 35ft long HM Survey Motor Launch (HMSML) Gleaner. With her small crew under the command of Lieutenant Commander Matt Syrett, the Gleaner started her survey task on Monday (September 1) and will continue the work until September 12.

Working under contract to the ministry of defence, the commercial company Wessex Archaeology is assisting the survey which will be carried out using a multi-beam echo-sounder, high-frequency sonar which can detect small items on or below the seabed and, for the first time, a computer-controlled camera system known as Remus.

Also new will be a Canadian-developed system – Caris – which will be used to process the data at the end of the operation. That data, which should be ready before the end of the year, will be provided to the organisations being consulted as part of an environmental impact assessment already announced.

Among the organisations being consulted are local authorities in the area, English heritage and the Mary Rose trust, who have a keen interest in the results of Gleaner’s survey of the Mary Rose wreck site, where the ship’s bow castle is thought to be lying under the seabed.

An initial assessment provided for mod by Wessex Archaeology has found that there are 174 known and documented wrecks and seabed obstructions in the Solent, including the remains of the Portsdown steam ferry which lies on the route of the navy’s preferred channel.

Much earlier wrecks could also be found as the Romans used the Solent sea routes. Other artefacts and structures may date back to the stone and bronze ages as 18,000 years ago the Solent was dry land that gradually became inundated.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th September 2003ce

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