The excavation

The wreck was discovered on April 6, 1979 by Alain Visquis, during an exploration dive, and was the subject of a survey by the Management Authority of underwater archaeological research (DRASM) shortly afterwards.
Nine excavation campaigns, lasting a total of 15 months, took place between 1982 and 1990, and the excavation itself took approximately one year.

- Aerial photograph of the site -

Various base watercraft were used: Archéonaute a specialized ship from the Ministry of Culture, motorized barges from the French Navy no.13, no.14 and no.26; Mérou , a ship from the Shipbuilding Authority of Toulon; the Saint-Paul trawler belonging to Mr.Alain Visquis, who discovered the wreckage site.

Motorized barge no. 13 from the French Navy Mérou

The Saint-Paul trawler Archéonaute

The excavation team, directed by max Guérout, consisted of Eric Rieth (CNRS) for the study of the structure of the construction, Jean-Marie Gassend (CNRS), for the architectural documentation and the study of the forms, Marion Delhaye, for the classification of archaeological artefacts, J.C. Hurteau (CNRS), Christian Petron, Guy Martin, Jean-Louis Pereyre, Philippe Foliot (CNRS) for photography, Pierre Brocot, and Michel Truffaut for the technical management and preparation of the equipment.

Nearly a hundred people took part in the excavation, each taking turns on the site, divers and non- divers, both from France and abroad.

The financing of the excavation was ensured by the town of Villefranche-On-The-Sea, the General Council of the Alpes-Maritimes, the Ministry of Culture, and the the Port-Cros National Park.
Conservation works received financial assistance from the Ministry of Culture, the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Management Authority of the Studies and Research of Electricity of France and the distribution center EDF of Nice.
The technical and logistic support is accredited to the Prefecture of IIIème Région Maritime (Diving School, The 3rd Underwater Bomb Disposal Unit , Underwater Intervention Team, and The Port Authority of Toulon), to the Mediterranean Test Center and to the Shipbuilding Authority of Toulon (Sea Basin Department).

The wreck, which faces south, rests 18 meters down and approximately 400 meters from the end of the pier of the Port de la Darse at Villefranche-sur-mer. It is tilted on its port side at approximately 45 degrees and is nestled down approximately 2 meters into the sediment.

Cliquez on to enlarge the view
- Survey of the site -

After a first survey carried out in 1982, to evaluate the characteristics of the site and their importance, a long-term excavation was decided. Six principal fields of research were then defined:

  - Descriptive study of the structures of the ship,
- Study of the methods of construction,
- Study of the principles of construction,
- Study of the forms,
- Study of the nautical characteristics of the ship,
- Study of the woodworking,
- Study of the artillery,
- Study of the rigging and the equipment of the ship.

Due to insufficient means, an in situ study of the wreck was decided, excluding any surfacing and any significant disassembling of the structures. To approach in a progressive way the technical difficulties of the excavation of a hull largely deployed in three dimensions (two levels of the deck were preserved) and to comprehend these structures, it was decided to proceed in the excavation in successive cross sections comprising all the width of the wreck (approximately 10 meters) and measuring 4 to 5 meters along the longitudinal axis of the wreck. The first studied section was that of the back. In each studied section, the removal of the sediment and the sampling of artefacts were carried out, and then a detailed study of the hull was undertaken. At the end of the campaign the sector was embanked.
This method had the advantage of gradually broaching the difficulties but the study of the structures had the disadvantage of being able to reach significant data like the length of the skittle; achieved only after nine years of work. It had however a good outcome given the time allotted.

© Max Guérout