Britannias Gold – Salvage Update 05/12/2018

Progress at site since our last update has been satisfactory given the conditions we have been working in and the continuing removal of hull plate has proven to be time consuming and difficult. As mentioned in our last update, a sample of the hull plate was recovered for analysis which we misreported as “A” steel grade where in fact the steel hull plate is grade ‘C-D Arctic grade’ and found to be treble thickness in places. Coupled with this is the fact that the ship’s structural framework is much stronger than most and the rivets holding everything together are as good as the day of construction; this has made for one very tough shipwreck to break into.

The team have also worked the equipment over and above what would normally be acceptable and sadly paid the price with a number of mechanical breakdowns. That said, the removal of hull plate is now considered to be 80% complete.
Works in parallel have taken place in creating the horizontal access aperture and removing internal structure which has proved easier to accomplish due to the lesser grade steel which has degraded over the years. However, owing to the size of the wreck, there is a great deal of this steelwork to remove and the team have regularly encountered massive deck plates or bulkheads that are still secured to the wreck and immovable. This has resulted in our needing time to cut into smaller sections and remove piecemeal.

Unlike marine subsea construction projects where it is relatively easy to assess phase times for completion, marine salvage of very old shipwrecks has to depend on a best estimate of timings. This is based upon the structural plans, heuristic knowledge and the changing requirements of reaching the intended destination inside the wreck. One can guarantee there will be stumbling blocks along the route although having a team of well-seasoned salvage professionals does allow the identification of efficient methods to work around (or in some cases, through) these obstacles.

Works have progressed despite very inclement weather at times but we will be seeking shelter this coming weekend, well clear of the forecast 60 knot winds and 16-meter seas.