Assembling a (Princes Channel) wreck…

1 05 2009

Halfway through our modeling course we made a first attempt to join the five different hull sections of the Princes Channel Wreck. On the one hand we wanted to establish the “missing link” between the bow and the hull of our ship and on the other hand we hoped to get a first idea about the size of the ship.

Assembling the Princes Channel wreck

Assembling the Princes Channel wreck

We mounted the bow section on a large wooden frame and then assembled the remainder of the hull using temporary fixings such as wire and chocks. Thin plastic splines were used to control curvature and assure fair lines. Although this was our first attempt, which involved a lot of improvisation, we got a first idea about the size of the Princes Channel Wreck or Gresham Ship. it looks as if we are dealing with a merchant vessel of at least 25m length at the level of the lowest (and possibly only) continuous deck.

All sections joined

All sections joined

As a next step we’re going to build a larger reconstruction frame and attempt a more permanent reconstruction which will also allow taking off a first set of lines. At the same time the working groups have started to work on larger 1:10 scale wooden models in order to reconstruct the construction sequence of the Princes Channel Wreck.

Jens Auer
Assistant Professor
Maritime Archaeology Programme

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Piece 4 of the Princes Channel Wreck – week 5

2 04 2009

In making the 1:20 model of the bow section of the Princess Channel Wreck we used many of the same procedures earlier mentioned. Since this part of the wreck had many heavy timber parts, it was natural to make some pieces in timber. The idea was that the model in this way would both be sturdier and get an improved appearance, than if constructed of cardboard alone. The only pieces made in cardboard were the strakes. Gluing 1mm and 2mm cardboard together gave us the general width needed to reconstruct the planks. The rest of the timber pieces; the keel, stem post, stemson and the frames were all made of wood. A 1:20 print was glued on to the moulded part of the wood and cut out using a jig-saw. The sided part was constructed in the same matter. Finishing touches and details, like rabbets and scarfs, were cut using a knife.
Figure 1: Frame.

Since the wreck was not taken apart before recording, not all of the prints of the timber pieces had a full outline and some estimated guesses were needed also in order to calculate how the pieces were connected to one another. The Princess channel boat is believed to have been built frame first, so when putting the different parts together, we started with connecting the keel and stem post using small nails. For calculating the angle these should be situated, we used the outline of the stemson, which later was attached on top of the keel and stemson. Even though the original progress of building the ship started with the frames, we decided to begin with fastening some of the strakes. This was done to try to find the correct place to position the frames. After the lower strakes were attached, the frames were placed before the last strakes were fastened.

Figure 2: Bow section; keel, stem post and three strakes attached

Figure 3: Bow section; keel, stem post and three strakes attached

Marja-Liisa Petrelius Grue & Christian Thomsen





Piece 3b of the Princes Channel Wreck – week 4

26 03 2009

This week we have started putting our pieces together. Our piece has two layers of frames. Originally the boat was built with only one layer, and later the planking was taken off to add another layer on the outside before the planks were put back on, a technique that is called furring. The wale was not removed during the process, and became the stringer, after the furring.


When we made our frames we used the digital archive in Rhino; some of them were not fully recorded, and we did not get all the additional information we needed to make them from sketches or photos either. We had to improvise with some of the pieces by comparing them to others that we had more information about.


After cutting out all the pieces in cardboard, we glued it together using the drawing of the inside overview plan of 3b to locate each one of them. Initially we glued the outer frames to the stringer. We then understood that we should make a cut in them, were the stringer could fit in to make it an even structure. When making the cut for the stringer we realized that some of the improvised frames were not thick enough, that the stringer would split the frames in two. Instead of making the frames again, we decided to glue more layers of cardboard on to the already made frames to make them thicker. We have also worked on the water way and the ledge.


Konstantinos Alexiou, Liv Gardsjord Lofthus & Cate Wagstaffe





The Princes Channel Wreck model building project

1 03 2009
As part of the syllabus this semester the students of the Maritime Archaeology Program are conducting model building of the remains of the Princes
Channel wreck.

The Port of London Authority discovered the ship in 2003 in the Thames Estuary during dredging operations and Wessex Archaeology carried out the excavation and recovery.

The remains were lifted in 5 separate pieces, which make up one part of the port side, approximately 14m long. The vessel was a carvel built merchant ship and also conveys evidence of ‘furring’, a practice of doubling up all framing timbers – this is the only known archaeological evidence of this shipbuilding technique.

The cargo included folded iron bars, lead and tin ingots and four guns. Dendrochronological investigations have revealed a construction date of soon after 1574 and that the oak used most likely came from eastern England (Auer & Firth, 2007).

More detailed information may be found here.

The model building workshop


In the coming weeks each group working on the individual pieces will write about their experiences and attempt to determine the construction methods
and sequences utilized in the ship’s original creation.




The Gresham Project Fieldwork Part II

15 07 2008

MAP students are just back from a second fieldwork session in Horsea lake, Portsmouth, UK.

Recording in Horsea Lake

Recording in Horsea Lake

The diving fieldwork was part of the Gresham Wreck Hull Study Programme and focussed on finishing the on-site recording of the so called Gresham Wreck, a 16th century merchantman which has been deposited in the brackish lake (see the project page for more detail). Students recorded surface detail on one of the wreck sections and partly disassembled the bow of the vessel to understand the construction. On 7th July, the MAP team was visited by participants of the IKUWA conference fieldschool who also dived the wreck. See pictures from the survey on our Flickr page. The Maritime Archaeology Programme would like to thank the friendly personnel of the Defence Diving School in Portsmouth for their support.

Jens Auer

Assistant Professor

Maritime Archaeology Programme





The Gresham Project Fieldwork Part I

31 08 2007

In August 2007, the Maritime Archaeology Programme spent a first fieldwork session on the Gresham wreck in Horsea lake in Portsmouth. The aim was to re-tag the wreck timbers with new, longer lasting tags and stainless steel nails and to record sections through remaining wreck structures in order to supplement previously acquired total station data.

Diver recording sections on the hull of the Princes Channel Wreck

Diver recording sections on the hull of the Princes Channel Wreck

The MAP team of two students and two lecturers was supported by a diver from the British Museum. Using commercial SCUBA equipment with surface communication facilities, all planned tasks could be completed in five diving days.

All framing timbers were marked with new timber tags. Sections were recorded with vertical offsets from a tape measure running along each frame. The data was processed by MAP students and added to the project archive. Pictures from the diving fieldwork can be found on our Flickr page.