Today I visited the city of Portsmouth. So far, most of the towns I’ve been able to travel to have had gothic architecture while Portsmouth was full of modern architecture. This was because Portsmouth boasts of many naval bases which were unfortunately subject to lots of bombing by the Nazis in World War II. Portsmouth Water has one of the biggest sea lanes in the world and it has FOUR tides a day because of the Isle of Wight. Even back in the time of the Romans Portsmouth was a ship place. It was called Vectis back then though. It’s also the birthplace of Charles Dickins. I wish I could have seen his house/ museum but there’s only so much time in a day. So those are a few fun facts about Portsmouth! However, the reason that I went to Portsmouth was to see some old ships that were- and are, absolutely remarkable.
The bus stopped for about fifteen minutes on a hill overlooking the city. The salty Atlantic air blew across my face and the clouds were fluffy and white. The sun popped out and I sat down in the green grass and enjoyed the view. The picture doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. We could see the entire city as well as islands, boats, and harbors on the other side of the city. We got back on the bus and entered the city to go see the ships.
The ship that I was the most excited to see was a ship called the HMS Mary Rose. It was commissioned by King Henry for his Royal Navy. She was known as the “fairest ship that ever sailed” and was meant for a crew of 500 men. Unfortunately, Mary Rose keeled over and sank within ten minutes of her first fight against France. Historians believe it was because the cannon ports were too low to the sea and leaked in water. Only a few men survived the sinking and Mary Rose sunk deep into the mud. This mud wasn’t ordinary mud though. It was antiseptic mud which actually preserved her very well. In 1960 Alexander McKee found her scuba-diving and they started to excavate her shortly after. After this boats discovery, historians learned so much more about the people’s way of life in King Henry’s time. The discovery was revolutionary. Unfortunately Mary Rose’s exhibit was undergoing renovation and it was closed! I was so disappointed. 😦 Luckly, we did get to see some of the articfacts found in her hull upon excavation. The coolest thing was a Surgeon’s Chest full of old instruments such including some crazy-big injection needles, bone saws, little knives, and jars of ointments.
The second ship we saw was the HMS Victory. This ship never sank and it’s still in great condition for being over 300 years old! We got to go on all four of its levels. The Victory is a huge icon in British History because of the Battle of Frafalgar which was commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson. Nelson was the fiercest, most admired English naval hero. He was the man who ensured that Napoleon Bonaparte was never able to invade England. Unfortunately in that battle Nelson died. He was shot by a French sniper through his shoulder and the bullet went right through his lungs and internal organs where it lodged at the base of his spine. I actually got to stand in the exact spot on the ship where Nelson was shot down. Supposedly the ship is haunted by him and I did get chills standing there where he fell. Our tour guide had a interesting sense of humor. The deck was really slippery because it had just rained. Where Nelson was shot there’s a plaque that says “Here Nelson fell”.
Our tour guide remarked, “It’s no surprise that Nelson fell; I nearly fell myself!” Ha. Ha. I don’t know if it’s okay to joke about one of your country’s greatest war heroes on a haunted ship but I guess he didn’t have any qualms with it… After Nelson was shot his men brought him down to the hold of the ship. The surgeon was knew there was nothing he could do. Amazingly, Nelson survived four entire hours with his fatal wounds. He was still alive when Napoleon surrendered. England had won. Then he passed. Nelson wasn’t chill with the typical sea funeral. He wanted a huge funeral with thousands of attendees and grand processions! His men stuck his body in a large barrel of rum to preserve it for the sail back. Good thing Nelson only stood about 5′ 5”. The grossest thing was that the rum level kept going down! The sailors were literally drinking the rum off the top of the barrel which his body was stuffed in! They kept having to top it off to keep him covered. Sick. His body was buried in St. Paul’s cathedral four months later. One of the French corporals who had fought him in the battle of Frafalgar ended up being one of pallbearers because he had so much respect for Nelson. Was it worth it? I don’t know because Napoleon ended up having him charged and hung for it.
After visiting the ships we boarded a ferry for a tour of the harbor. We saw a bunch of modern war ships of the British Navy’s as well as some war ships from Holland that were docked there for the day. After the ride I warmed up in a coffee shop with a mushroom and cheese toastie and coffee. It was a perfect end to a fantastic day.