The Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s Lost Ship

To Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on England’s south coast for the unveiling of the last stages of the restoration of Henry VIII’s favourite ship, The Mary Rose, after the Museum’s six-month closure to the public.

The date is especially significant because today, July 19th 2016, is the 471st Anniversary of the Tudor ship’s sinking off the coast of England.   Over the years since her discovery on the bottom of the seabed and her subsequent raising from this watery grave in 1982 (an event watched by 60 million people worldwide) she has attracted and thrilled people in equal measure.

During the excavation project, 27,831 dives were made, and 22,710 hours of marine Archaeological work was needed on the seabed.  The struggles and hardships endured by all who worked on this modern project is a story all by itself, but after decades of hard work and 437 years under water, the Mary Rose is now finally on view to the public in a spectacular Museum inside Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, home also, to Nelson’s ship The Victory.

ISON_160719MaryRose-6203
The newly unveiled wreck of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth. Today is the 471st anniversary of the sinking of the ship in The Solent in 1545. The ill-fated Tudor warship was raised from the seabed in 1982. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2016. Photograph by © Christopher Ison for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN). 07544044177 chris@christopherison.com http://www.christopherison.com

It took 600 trees, mainly oak but some elm, to build the ship in 1510 and now one can see displayed, some of these wonderfully preserved timbers.  The Mary Rose sank on the 19th July 1545, as it left Portsmouth with 500 men on board (of which only 35 survived) to take part in the 3rd French War, and it sank to the bottom of the Solent within sight of King Henry who was watching its departure from Southsea Castle.  It lay there, at an angle of 60ᵒ, until excavations began in 1971.  (Below is an image of cannon balls taken through the glass floor of the ship).

Cannon-balls-iviewed-through-glass-in-the-gallery-floor)

Since it’s recovery, The Mary Rose has been undergoing continuous conservation.  First, the hull was sprayed with a mist of freshly chilled water and then, from 1994 to April 2013 when it entered a stage of controlled drying, with a water-soluble wax.  Thanks to these methods, the hull is now in a stable condition which means that the black drying ducts which provided the necessary conditions for this, can now be removed and visitors can now have a clear and uninterrupted view.

Close-up-of-timbers-from-Mary-Rose

Close up of timbers of The Mary Rose –  Mari Nicholson

To date, 19,000 artefacts have been recovered from the site, including

  • 6,600 arrow bits
  • 9 barrels containing bones of fully-grown cattle
  • 1 full skeleton of a dog aged between 18 months and 2 years old.

The new look Mary Rose Museum provides stunning panoramic views of all nine galleries of the ship through floor to ceiling glazing on the lower and main decks, while on the upper deck visitors will enter via an airlock and are then separated from the ship by only a glass balcony.  On the floor are glass panels through which they can view ‘below decks’ which holds cannon balls and work-rooms.

Gun-from-Mary-Rose

Gun from The Mary Rose – Mari Nicholson

Plaque-on-gun-from-Mary-Rose

A walk around the Museum gives food for thought as you see how life was lived below decks in the 16th century.  Whole cabins can be seen, the carpenter’s cabin, the surgeon’s cabin, the captain’s cabin, the archers’ quarters and those of the deck-hands, as well as the everyday things that made life bearable for these sailors, dice (for illicit gambling), purses, sewing-kits, belts.  It is a fascinating insight into history, and a couple of hours spent here can impart more knowledge than reading a treatise on naval life in the days of Henry VIII.  The plaque on the gun boasts Made in England because most guns were made in other parts of Europe and imported.

The baker’s oven that is pictured below is the original in every way, right down to the bricks used.

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TV crews at Mary Rose Museum for the Unveiling, 19/06/16
Mary-Rose
Mary Rose Timbers

Baker's-Oven-(Original-Bricks)

Cook's-Utensils
Cook’s Utensils

JAPAN: Walking in the Japanese Alps

Standing on the platform in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and seeing the Express train go through was proof enough that it deserves the praise lavished on it.  The Express really does go through like a bullet: blink and you’ll miss it.  This sleek, slim, beautifully designed train is simply incredible.

Tokyo to Kamikochi

And I’m about to board it.  We are leaving Tokyo on the Limited Express and heading to Matsumoto and then onwards by local train to Shima Shima before boarding the bus to the village of Kamikochi in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, otherwise known as the Japanese Alps.

Kamikochi is a moderately developed village surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with half a dozen hotels, some souvenir shops, and a few mountain huts.  Over the next few days, my friends Ken and Steve and I shall be walking the many trails laid out through the pine trees and along the fast-flowing rivers of turquoise snowmelt.  The area is only open from mid/late April until November, it stands 1500 meters above sea level and is home to the active volcano Yakedake (2455 m).

Interior Shinkansen

Interior of  Train – Mari Nicholson

The train experience far exceeds my expectations, with carpeted floors, roomy recliner seats, and a quiet trolley service.  The big surprise is the attendant who comes along about every hour or so with individually packaged, cold wet wipes which she hands out to everyone.  Not only that but the wet towels are collected afterwards, so no unpleasant wipes are left hanging around.

From the train windows, we see suburbs of small-holdings each with a small paddi-field, aqueducts, huge electronic towers, and always, gardens filled with pink azaleas, irises and hydrangeas in full bloom along with the ubiquitous bonsai.

Tokyo Suburbs - Rice paddi from house to railway

Rice-planting from road to railway track – Mari Nicholson

A taxi from Kamikochi bus station takes us to the Imperial Hotel, a rustic Alpine-style building, located just below the mountains in the midst of sweet-smelling pines.   Off to the side of reception is a bar in which an enormous open fire sits in the middle of the room, around which, I later found, the hotel clients relaxed and chatted after a day’s hiking   Our rooms are delightful and we decided to quickly explore the hotel’s facilities and then go for a stroll along the Azusa river which meanders its way through the valley.

Three days later and we feel we never want to leave Kamikochi.  It is the tail-end of the Japanese spring so we are too early for the yearly breathtaking display of Japanese Azaleas (the Rhododendron japonium) and Sagisuge (Eriophorum gracile) that flower during the summer.  In late autumn they are equally attractive as they then sport a coating of fine, white frost.

Imperial Hotel, Kamikochi
Imperial Hotel, Kamikochi – Mari Nicholson

The area of Kamikochi is simply stunning with an amazing variety of bird life whose sweet song hangs in the air from morning till night.  Wild macaques (they do not interfere with visitors because people are careful not to feed them) play on the paths in family groups and among the trees along the river.  As we stroll along, the babies peek from their mother’s arms with big black eyes.

The Macaque takeover of the public tables and benches
Macques lay claim to the picnic area – Mari Nicholson

Sometimes, “if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise” in the form of a big, unfriendly, black bear.   Not to be trifled with, or approached, walkers and hikers are advised to carry a bell attached to their backpacks so that the ringing of the bell as you walk, informs the bear of an approaching human.  We purchased ours on arrival and were glad we did when we came across the sign that informed us that a black bear had been sighted just a couple of days before our arrival!

Bear Sighting Poster
Black Bear Sighting in Woods at Kamikochi – Mari Nicholson

For non-walkers, the local area is safe and accessible, and there are natural hot spring baths for those who fancy the Japanese custom of sitting in a tub with other people. There are well-posted trails ranging from easy rambles to more serious hikes, and treks to the high peaks which surround the valley.

A Walker in the woods
Walking in the woods in Kamikochi

 

 

Hikers by the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This area was discovered by a British missionary, the Reverend  Walter Weston (1861-1940) who arrived in Japan aged 27.   He mapped the area, sparking Japanese interest in Western-style mountaineering as a sport and he popularised the term ‘Japanese Alps’ through his work “Mountaineering and Exploring in the Japanese Alps (1896)”.

Plaque to Re. Weston

Plaque to Rev. Weston on Azusa River – Mari Nicholson

He is known as the Father of Mountain Climbing in Japan, and a plaque has been erected in his honour set into the rock on the west side of the Azusa River, just north of the Onsen Hotel. On the first Sunday in June, the Weston Festival is held to celebrate the opening of the mountain-climbing season.

Walking in Kamikochi

The simplest way to enjoy a day in Kamikochi is by walking or hiking one of the trails along Azusa River from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge.  This is mostly flat terrain and is suitable for all levels of fitness, requires no walking or hiking experience and will only take a few hours – perfect for the less experienced hiker or walker.  No need for hiking boots or specialist footwear, normal trainers will do for these sort of walks. A Walk in the Woods A pleasant one-hour stroll is along the Azusa River from Kappa Bridge (see below) to an area called Myojin where there are several lodges and a few shops.

Myolin Pond actually consists of two linked ponds, one large, one small, filled with crystal clear water.  It is a place where walkers like to pause and sit awhile, listening to the soft swish of the bamboo along the lakeside, admiring the reflection of Mt. Moyjndake in the waters, and the birds that sit on the rocks in the pond.  A tranquil spot by the pond

 

Japanese boy at Tsaio Pond
Japanese Boy Plays by the Tsaisho Pond – Mari Nicholson

Tashiro Bridge is the starting point of Nishi-Hotaka Mountain trekking course. From here it takes about 20 minutes to walk to Kappa Bridge, 40 minutes to Taisho Pond and 5 minutes to the Weston Memorial.

Hikers along the river in Kamikochi
Hikers along the river in Kamikochi

Kappa Bridge

Tourists at Kappa Bridge, Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi

Kapps Bridge with Weekend Tourists – Mari Nicholson

Fifty minutes from Myolin is the famous Kappa Bridge, from which hiking trails lead up and down the valleys and towards the mountain summits.  Along these trails, markers indicate the best bird-watching points where wagtails, Japanese bush warbler, Japanese robin, flycatchers, Arctic Warbler, Horsfield’s hawk cuckoo, willow tit, nuthatch, wren, pygmy woodpecker, and others too numerous to list can be seen.

The Kappa-Bashi is a 36.6 x 3.1-metre wooden suspension bridge over the Azusa-gawa river in the centre of Kamikochi, not far from the bus terminal.  Several hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops can be found here.  With the Hotaka Mountain Range in front and volcanic Mt. Yakedake billowing white smoke in the south, Kappa-Bashi’s stunning views from the bridge makes this one of the most scenic spots in the town, hence its popularity.

Visitor Centre, Kamikochi, Japan - Mari Nicholson

The Visitor Centre in Kamikochi – Mari Nicholson

The more experienced walker will enjoy the climbs in the surrounding peaks, following one of the many delineated trails.  These are more challenging and are only recommended between mid-June and mid-September.  If you are new to the area, you should be aware that the treeline of Kamikochi continues up to 2500 metres which takes the hiker into a craggy world of rocks and cliffs where, even in good weather, climbing can be extremely dangerous.   These peaks should be tackled with great care, especially if there is wind or rain, as the rain on the high crags can be intense and has been known to continue for several days, leaving hikers on the verge of hypothermia.  Every year there are accidents and people lose their lives in the mountains.

Resting awhile in the Kamikochi Park

Resting Awhile – Mari Nicholson

A 3-hour walk from Kappa Bridge is Yokoo, the climbing base for many of the 300-metre mountains in the Japanese Alps, including Yarigatake, a tranquil place and perfect for walking.  There is a mountain lodge in the area for overnight hikers.

A Bend in the River - Dramatic Scenery

Fast-Flowing Rivers of Snow Melt – Mari Nicholson

And I just can’t resist one more picture of mother and baby macaques, part of the family we encountered on one of our walks through and along the river.  The soulful expression on the face of the mother, and the tiny baby peeking out from under her fur is as tender as you’ll get in any ‘mother-love’ picture.

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Mother and Baby by Steve Moore.

The whole area of Kamikochi is covered with virgin forests of birch, Japanese larch trees, and Japanese hemlocks.  In June, the young leaves of birch trees are so beautiful that they attract many tourists to what is called the “light green mist”.  Generally, the foliage is at its peak in October and attracts visitors who come to admire the wonder of it.

I’ve seen it in spring and part summer, now I want to experience this delightful spot in the Japanese Alps in the autumn.  I know where I shall be heading next time I’m in Japan.

Points of Interest in Kamikochi

Taisho Pond (Taishoike) was formed in June 1915, when an eruption of the nearby volcano Yakedake dammed Azusa River and created the pond. Decayed trees, standing in the pond, provide a special sight.  It  is a small pond surrounded by marshland located along the hiking trail connecting the Kappabashi with Taisho Pond.  This pond never freezes over completely due to the spring waters underneath.

Kamikochi Imperial Hotel Built in 1933, is the most prestigious accommodation in Kamikochi, offering a combination of mountain lodge atmosphere and first class hospitality services.  The food was the best we had in Japan, with very fresh lake fish every day on the menu.

Imperial Hotel Kamikochi.  Terrace and Balcony Rooms - Mari Nicholson
Imperial Hotel, Kamikochi, Terrace & Balconied Rooms – Mari Nicholson

 

 

The Takezawa Marsh, a 5-10 minute walk from the Kappabashi along the trail towards Myojin Pond, is one of the most scenic areas of Kamikochi.

Myojin Pond can be reached in about a one hour walk from the Kappabashi.

Kamikochi Visitor Center Open daily from 8:00 to 17:00 (free admission), the visitor centre introduces the geography, geology, fauna, flora and folklore of Kamikochi and provides information to mountain climbers. Booklets available and

How to Get There

From Tokyo, two trains get you to Matsumoto, the JR Nagano Shinkansen to Nagano. From Nagano, take the Shinonoi Line to Matsumoto.  The other option is the JR Chuo Line, slower than the Shinkansen, but it takes you to Matsumoto from Shinjuku Station. At Matsumoto, take the Matsumoto Dentetsu Railway to Shin-Shimashima, this is as far as you can go. From here, a bus, or a taxi will take you to Kamikochi.

Visitor Centre in Kamikochi:   Phone: 0263 95 2606

Hours: 8:00 to 17:00, mid-April to November 15, free admission

7:00 to 18:00 July 20-August 20

Closed November 15th through winter

Climate

The temperature in Kamikochi is 5 to 10 ℃ lower than Matsumoto and in late autumn it sometimes falls below freezing point.  Winter clothes are recommended from mid-October to early May when snow may be encountered, and carry rain wear at all times because it rains a lot in the Kamikochi mountains.