Our first real “let’s explore” day, Friday, October 4, had us out and onto the 10:something train to Portsmouth for an afternoon of learning about a tiny slice of England’s naval history. The focus of the day was the Mary Rose.
The Mary Rose was the “flower” of Henry VIII’s naval ships. It was in service for thirty plus years before being sunk (or having sunk as no one is absolutely certain why the ship sunk) during the Battle of the Solent in July 1545. Almost all of the 500+ men on board were drowned. The ship settled on the bottom on its side where 437 years of water and marine life action destroyed the half of the wreck that stuck up from the silt. The surviving part of the ship plus all of the bits and bobs were eventually covered in many feet of silt.
In 1982, after years of planning, the remains of the Mary Rose were raised and they have been undergoing a restoration process ever since. Now, don’t think that by “restoration” I mean that you now are confronted with some Disneylandesque Peter Pan type reconstruction. No, what one sees now are the rotted remains of the wooden keel, decks, ribs and sides of the ship. It is displayed in a museum in the port along with all of the artifacts that were found with it . . . think everything from huge cannon and heaps of cannon balls to kiddie swimming pool sized cooking pots to the personal chests of the carpenter, surgeon, admiral to the contents of those chests. It is phenomenal.
The exhibition even includes skeletal remains of some of the crew with explanations of who (or what function) these people served. This one probably an archer because of a slightly twisted spine and the skeletal evidence of particular arm and shoulder strength as well as slight grooving on certain fingers; that one possibly the cook because of the hunched curvature of the spine, etc. Fascinating really.
After the Mary Rose, we fast forwarded a bit and took a stroll through the HMS Victory, the ship on which Nelson was killed during the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. While the Mary Rose presents as haunting, skeletal remains, the HMS Victory stands in all its colorful glory (well, minus some of its mast height). It is a beautiful ship and anyone would give his or her eye teeth to have the planks of the interior decking as ones floor. Now, that would be hardwood floors worth having.
As you walk round the various decks, peeking at all the nooks and crannies, you do begin to get a hint of what being on board a ship of the line must have been like . . . minus the other 500+ people and the smell and the noise and the pitching and rolling and the ill health and the monotony and the terror. Okay, you get absolutely NO idea of what it would have been like to live and work on a ship of the line but it was interesting to have wandered about.
We caught the 3:29 back to Hove and arrived in time for a rest and then a stroll down to the waterfront to meet a friend, Fi McK,* for a very good, albeit enormous, Italian dinner. Keeping with the nautical theme of the day, the desserts were the size of barges. Michael had something called Banoffee Pie** that came accompanied by two iceberg sized scoops of ice cream, great blobs of whipped cream, and several sail shaped wafers stuck strategically here and there.
Unfortunately, there is no photographic documentation of the surf portion of this post due to the fact that I never once took my camera out of my bag. Guess I was still a bit jet lagged. Bur brace yourself, with post #2 of “Surf and Turf” the photos begin.
*We met Fi on our first trip here and discovered that while working in San Francisco Fi became an Oregon Duck fan via a friend.
**Banoffee pie = Banana and toffee pie; apparently it was developed in Sussex.