In addition to quantity, dredging works that helped prepare Portsmouth Harbour for the arrival of new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers have revealed lots of interesting items.
More than 20,000 items, ranging from shoes to sea mines, have been found during the dredging of the approach to the Harbour, many dating back several centuries.
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) awarded a contract to Boskalis Westminster to make room for the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier and her sister ship Prince of Wales two years ago.
Since then, specialist dredging vessels have been at work, removing 3,200,000 cubic metres of sediment – the equivalent to 12,800 Olympic swimming pools.
The wealth of artefacts uncovered include eight cannons, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors and a human skull which was passed to the local police.
There was an arsenal of old ordnance too, ranging from bullets and cannonballs to a British torpedo. A German sea mine and five large bombs were found, before being made safe by the Royal Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
Elsewhere the dredging uncovered bottles, plates, ceramics and shoes which probably belonged to sailors. They have been passed to the project’s archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology for study.
“We’re delighted with the successful completion of the dredging work. It marks the conclusion of DIO’s £100m infrastructure project to ready Portsmouth for the forthcoming arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth, of which the dredge was only part,” Philip Wise, Principal Project Manager for DIO, said. “We look forward to welcoming HMS Queen Elizabeth to her new homeport.”
Although the main dredging work has now completed there will be an on-going need to remove new material that naturally settles in the channel over time. This will be achieved by maintenance dredging on a yearly basis.