SOLENT FORTS HISTORY OF THE SOLENT

Royal shipwrecks, Roman remains and naval battles

The Solent is the strait of water separating the Isle of Wight from mainland England and a major route for leisure, freight and military vessels. The area is hugely popular with yachting enthusiasts, and is also the location of the prestigious annual sailing event, Cowes Week.

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact timeframe for the emergence of this busy stretch of water, but human remains that date from the Roman era have been discovered by divers which suggests the sea level was much lower at this time and the strait, if it existed at all, would have been much narrower.

In 1545, Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose was lost in the strait just outside Portsmouth harbour during a naval battle between the English and French and over 350 crew members lost their lives. A salvage project in 1971 pinpointed the location of the remains of this famous ship and later, it was successfully lifted from the seabed in 1982 to be restored in Portsmouth.

Another famous ship to be associated with the Solent was the doomed luxury liner, Titanic, which left Southampton never to return, in April 1912. Having been deemed “unsinkable”, the iconic ship hit an iceberg and with not enough lifeboats to accommodate all 2,224 passengers, only 710 people survived.

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