Loaded cannons recovered from 'wreck of 18th century warship HMS Rose' undergo restoration after 244 years

Watch: British Warship cannons emerge from the deep after two centuries underwater

The sunken remnants of what is believed to be British warship HMS Rose, which met its fate 244 years ago in the waters off the coast of Georgia in America, have yielded a trove of historical artefacts including 19 cannons that remain loaded with ammunition.

HMS Rose, a 20-gun Royal Navy ship, played a pivotal role in suppressing smuggling in the Rhode Island colony during the American Civil War, which is widely believed to have catalysed the formation of the Continental Navy, a precursor of the modern United States Navy.

Recovery of the cannons began almost three years ago by the US Army Corps of Engineers after the wreck was discovered in Savannah Harbor in Georgia.

The cannons were still loaded when they were hauled up from the ocean floor, sparking a race against time to protect and conserve these precious pieces of Royal Navy history.

"If you take material out of the sea and you don't do anything to conserve it, it'll deteriorate very quickly," explained Dr Chris Dostal, a director of the Conservation Research Laboratory and the archaeologist responsible for the cannon's restoration.

Archaeologists from Chronicle Heritage under contract to the US military sent 17 of the cannons to Texas A&M labs, a facility specialising in marine archaeological conservation, where work continues to restore them.

The cannons are placed in a vat filled with sodium hydroxide as part of a process which pushes salts out of the metal and which can take a long time.

It could take up to two years to get all the salts out, according to Dr Dostal.

cannon ball from revolutionary ship wreck CREDIT BFBS
Six pound canon ball retrieved from 224 year old ship wreck off the coast of Georgia, USA

Although there is no risk of the cannons' black powder igniting, the restoration process unveils a captivating historical narrative, reminiscent of opening a time capsule.

The meticulous extraction of the cannonballs, still ensconced within the cannons, reveals how they were left when the vessel sank.

The cannons' barrels, sealed with plugs and filled with a protective layer of ropes known as "junk wood", provide a unique insight into the naval warfare of that era.

Alyssa Carpenter, a graduate student at the Conservation Research Laboratory, shared her profound connection to this with her work.

"Working on these cannons, it's kind of emotional because I am a descendant from people who fought in the Revolutionary War in the south," Alyssa said.

"And to me, that's just crazy that I'm working on these cannons that they could have touched.

"It's just a whole experience, especially when you see the cannonballs and the junkyards roll out and you're the first one to hold them."

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