Guernsey’s Roman Shipwreck

From the BBC (January 27):

Dr Margaret Rule clearly remembers receiving a phone call from diver Richard Keen on Christmas Day 1982 saying he had found a ship wreck.

The ship was located in the mouth of St Peter Port and was suspected to be a medieval barge.

Closer inspection in summer 1983 revealed it was in fact a Roman ship and so work began to “rescue” it.

It was raised between 1984 and 1986 and since 1999 has been at the Mary Rose Trust undergoing preservation work.

Dr Rule described raising the ship as “a rescue operation” because “the ship was being destroyed by the propeller wash of the large vessels entering and leaving the harbour”.

She said that discovering it was a Roman vessel was “the most exciting moment of my life” from both a personal and historical perspective.

She explained that the discovery was very important as it is a rare sea going Roman ship, while most found are canal or river vessels and that it would shed light on the trade routes used due to the pottery found from as far away as Spain and Algeria!

Dr Jason Monaghan from the Guernsey Museum added to this saying the Asterix is “one of only two of its type surviving and it is Britain’s largest Roman object”.

He went on to say that once the ship had been raised, thanks to private funding from the Guernsey Maritime Trust, it was studied and cleaned up before eventually being sent to The Mary Rose Trust in England for preservation work.

By the start of 2010 this preservation work was largely complete and the feasibility of bringing the vessel back to Guernsey was being investigated.

Dr Monaghan said: “It would need to be displayed in a ‘giant goldfish tank’ or glass tank to keep the bugs and dust off and keep the humidity stable… if it gets too dry it will fall apart or too wet it will go mouldy.”

Richard Keen who first found the Asterix also hoped to see it return to Guernsey, but acknowledged it would be “a fairly massive undertaking” and that it would “require a lot of money”.

The ship’s namesake is a the small but fearless French comic book character created in 1959, who lives in the only free village in Gaul (modern France), which was part of the Roman Empire.

via BBC – Raising Asterix, Guernsey’s Roman shipwreck.

Back on the 22nd, there was this brief item, also from the BBC:

A 1,700 year-old ship wreck could be returned to Guernsey if funding can be found, after undergoing preservation work since it was raised in 1985.

The Asterix was found by local diver Richard Keen in St Peter Port harbour in 1982, where it had lay since 280.

The timbers were taken to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth for immersion in wax and freeze drying.

Guernsey Museum Service said money is needed to pay for somewhere to store and display the ship.

The Asterix was destroyed by fire and sunk in the 3rd Century where the entrance to St Peter Port harbour was later established.

The museum service has said it hopes to bring the wreck, measuring 18m (60ft), back to the island for a permanent display.

via BBC – Wreck of Roman ship Asterix could return to Guernsey

Both reports feature additional video coverage.

On the web:

2 thoughts on “Guernsey’s Roman Shipwreck

  1. Great to learn that a Roman shipwreck has been raised and being preserved. I note the expense that this would have required. Good luck in raising the cost of returning it to Guernsey. I did meet Dr. Rule when she was in Adelaide about 1980
    for the 2nd Southern Hemisphere Maritime Archaeology Conference. We had dinner one night. I have sent a letter to England about the MARY ROSE as I did not have any email address to find out some detail about that recovery. Anyway, Have a good dive! From Down Under, JS.

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