I got an interest in the maritime from my Dad. I first encountered the Hornblower series around eight grade, and it’s become my favorite novel series; I’ve re-read it a dozen times. After seeing the prototypical touristy things during the last London trip, I decided I really wanted to see HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar, which is now in drydock in Portsmouth. So I looked up the train schedules, found it was doable, and headed down there this past Saturday.
It turns out there is much more than Victory there. Portsmouth is still an active naval base, and there are a number of historical attractions to see down there. You can buy combined tickets to see a number of them, and given my time constraints, I saw three.
The first thing I saw when I left the train station was HMS Warrior. Warrior was built in the 1860s in reaction to France’s construction of an ironclad battleship. Warrior herself saw no action, and quickly became obsolete during the rapid evolution of iron battleships in the late 1800s, but she’s well preserved — or more accurately, well restored, She has both a full ship square rig, and engines, and compared to both Victory and USS Constitution, is very long.
After getting some pictures of the harbor, I passed on Warrior for the moment, and walked down the lane to Victory.
Aside: along the way, I passed a booth where a woman was selling souvenirs, and was amused to see that she had Harry and Meghan Union Jack flags, originally £3, marked down to £2.
I was a little surprised by Victory. She is undergoing renovations, so only her lower masts are in place, so at first, she looks surprisingly small. She is roughly the same length as Constitution, but much bulkier, both taller — Victory has three gun decks to Constitution’s one — and wider.
She’s been recently repainted in colors that the conservators believe is more in line with her actual colors at the time of Trafalgar; her gun stripes seem an orangey tan to me. You really get a sense of her bulk looking at her stern; she has three decks of stern galleries and carvings.
Unlike Constitution, Victory is in drydock, and likely permanently so; you leave the ship from a hole cut in her hold, where you can see the drydock supports, and I think this is too bad. Constitution is clearly a museum ship, but a lot of the artifacts have been offloaded to the USS Constitution Museum, and she can still be taken out around the harbor, and even sailed, and they still do so occasionally. Victory is clearly a conserved object.
Still it’s a fascinating one to visit, and I had a great time doing so. This is the first time I’ve been able to do a lot of existing light photography with the new D7500, and I was very pleased with it. I got a lot of hand-held shots that would have been simply impossible with any of my previous cameras.
After finishing up with Victory, I headed over to the Mary Rose museum. The HMS Mary Rose was a Tudor period warship that sank during battle. One theory is that the addition of more guns made her top-heavy, another is that she heeled over in a gust, putting her gunports, which were open, under water. She capsized, taking all but 35 of her crew of 500 with her. She landed on her starboard side; over time, she silted in, and her exposed port side disintegrated. She was rediscovered in the late 1970s and excavated around 1982. Her remaining timbers were preserved, as were a number of artifacts. The skeletons of a number of her crew were found, and the museum has a couple of representations of what a couple of them might have looked like.
After the Mary Rose, I took a quick look at a museum about Victory, then headed back to HMS Warrior, and did a quick tour.
While I was onboard Warrior, I noticed a large tower close by, that looked like it had an observation deck.
This turned out to be the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, and a quick check of my phone showed that it was open for another half hour. So I scurried over, and went up. The views were grand.
After leaving the tower, I stopped for a quick bite to eat, and headed back to the train. The ride was quite scenic; we passed a lot of farms on the way back to London. It was a really nice end to a fun day.