HMS Victory 'set to be recovered' from seabed

Print of HMS Victory

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The remains of a 300-year-old warship are to be raised from the sea bed, according to reports.

The wreck of HMS Victory, a predecessor of Nelson's famous flagship, was found near the Channel Islands in 2008.

The British warship, which went down in a storm in 1744 killing more than 1,000 sailors, could contain gold coins worth an estimated £500m.

The Sunday Times says the Maritime Heritage Foundation is set to manage the wreck's raising.

It also reports that the charity will employ Odyssey Marine Exploration to carry out the recovery.

The American company found the ship four years ago, with the ship's identity confirmed by a bronze cannon.

The newspaper says the guns and other reclaimed artefacts will be displayed in British museums, but under the laws of salvage Odyssey is likely to receive the bulk of any treasure found.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "Efforts to protect key parts of British Naval history such as the wreck of HMS Victory 1744 are very welcome and we hope to make an announcement shortly."

'Great maritime mystery'

The chairman of the foundation, Lord Lingfield, is a relative of Admiral Sir John Balchin, who was onboard the warship when it sank.

The Tory peer, formerly known as Sir Robert Balchin, told the newspaper that he would not profit from the ship's cargo.

He added: "We will have the satisfaction of solving a great maritime mystery that has been part of my family history since the 18th Century."

The 174ft 9in (53m) ship was discovered by the Florida-based firm in May 2008, nearly 65 miles (100km) from where it was historically believed to have sunk.

At the time, the company's chief executive, Greg Stemm, said: "HMS Victory was the mightiest vessel of the 18th Century and the eclectic mix of guns we found on the site will prove essential in further refining our understanding of naval weaponry used during the era."

The Dutch financial publication, Amsterdamsche Courant, reported on 18 November 1744, a month after the ship sank: "People will have it that on board of The Victory was a sum of 400,000 pounds sterling that it had brought from Lisbon for our merchants."

It was also thought that large quantities of silver and gold coins would have been on board HMS Victory from enemy prize ships captured by Balchin, worth £120,000 at the time.

In a report, the exploratory company said only a cannon, marked with the crest of King George I, has been recovered so far.

The remains of the ship's hull, an iron ballast, two anchors, a copper kettle and rigging have been spotted on the sea bed.

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