The protected site lies about 800m offshore and measures 300m in diameter, with remnants of the hull at the centre and cannon and other artefacts around it.
Marine life at the Hazardous site including a jellyfish; tompot blenny; anemones.
It’s an area with a longshore drift that moves sediment along the shoreline.
The effect, apart from deciding water clarity, is that the site sometimes gets buried and at other times scoured.
So each visit is different. With perhaps several weeks having passed, much will have changed as the effects of tides and weather play out, sometimes dispiritingly so but at other times with new areas and the possibility of new artefacts uncovered.
Reduction in protective sand cover is also the principal threat to the surviving ship’s structure. It is gradually being destroyed, so routine dive activity consists primarily of observing and recording the site’s ever-changing state, and taking any action required to preserve its archaeological integrity.
“There aren’t many places in Britain where you have the opportunity to see a longitudinal section of an old wooden warship under water, but that is exactly what you can see with Hazardous,” says Dan Pascoe.
“Main gun-deck guns can be seen piercing through the hull or, at the bow end, lying across their gun-ports in the same position as they were lashed for the catastrophic storm of 1706.
“Immediately below them, the deck is visible, supported by a row of deck-beams protruding up from the sediment. It’s amazing to think that after 315 years under water, these wooden beams are still supporting the weight of the guns.
“Moving down through the ship and into the belly of the hold are rows of barrels, some lying on their sides, others upright. Scatters of butchered animal bones all around tell us that they were once filled with meat to feed the crew.”
Other loose artefacts are continually being found as the sediment within the hull gets washed away, says Pascoe.
“Wooden artefacts including spare rigging and gunnery equipment, which are emerging from the bosun’s and gunners’ stores, have to be recovered before they are either washed away or ravaged by marine borers.
“I feel extremely lucky that I get to enjoy this amazing wreck, but sadly it can’t last forever. As each year passes, another layer is lost to the physical and biological environment.”
The group is legally obliged to abide by best archaeological practices in recording and preserving this piece of maritime history. Its limited excavation licence requires specific permission and stringent conditions are attached.
Planned excavation is an intensive operation requiring additional divers, equipment, boats and funding.
It has been attempted over the years, but inconsistencies of tide and weather would often mean cancellation, or work left incomplete.
The site might be close to shore, but visits are seldom easy. The group RIB would launch from Bracklesham Bay’s public slipway until accumulated shingle and lack of maintenance put a stop to that. So the divers now have to launch from Itchenor, significantly increasing the time it takes to get to and from the site.
And with diving best at the low point on neap tides, time on site is critical.