The Hazardous was originally a French 50 gun third-rate, constructed at the Port Louis in 1698. She was 137 feet long with a beam of 37 feet and she displaced 720 tons (Owen 1988, 285). She was captured in the English Channel by the British channel Fleet Commanded by Admiral Sir Clowdsley Shovell and towed back to Port. The Hazardous kept her name and following repairs was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a fourth-rate on the 27th March 1704. The number of guns she carried increased to 54 and her displacement increased to 875 tons (Owen 1988, 285).
The Hazardous service in the Royal Navy was short lived as she wrecked off the West Sussex coast in Bracklesham Bay in November 1706. She was escorting a merchant fleet back from Virginia, North america. She was on the final leg of the journey heading up the Channel towards the Downs when bad weather forced the ship to head for sheltered waters in the St Helen’s Roads off the east side of the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, the Hazardous ran into difficulties and was driven into shallow waters off Bracklesham and wrecked (Owen 1988, 286).
( Owen, N. C., 1988. HMS Hazardous wrecked 1706. Pre-disturbance survey report 1987. IJNA 17.4:285-293.)
Discovery, Protection and Investigations
The site was discovered by local divers in 1977 and the Warship Hazardous Prize Project Group (WHPPG) was formed shortly after to investigate and record the site. In 1986 the site was protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The group now known as the Hazardous Project led by the Licensee, Iain Grant continue to investigate the site where new discoveries occur on almost every visit to the wreck. For more information on the Hazardous project
The site lies in 7 metres of water, 800 metres off the beach. The structural remains of the Hazardous survives wedged in a shallow gully between rocky outcrops. She lies on her port side, preserved from the beak towards amidships and partly from the main gundeck down to the floor. A large section of hull aft of amidships was lost in a single winter between 1990 and 1991. There are 11 guns lying on the port side of the wreck, demonstrating the ship had fallen over to port side during the wrecking.
In recent years the site has become rapidly exposed. This exposure has revealed numerous artefacts and internal structures of the ship. This includes a barrel store deep in the hold of Hazardous, which were probably carrying the ships provisions for the long voyage back from Virginia.
In 2016 the Hazardous Project Group was awarded an excavation licence by Historic England. The justification for the excavation has been threat led due to the rapid loss of seabed sediments in and around the wreck. Barrels, rigging elements, gun carriage parts and ordnance related artefacts have become exposed as well as the internal structures of the ship (see video below). This material needs to be recorded and recovered before it is lost to the biological and physical environment. The group plan to start excavating in the summer 2017 to rescue this material. All artefacts will be carefully recorded to build an understanding of their relationship within the ship. The team will also strive to record the structure of the Hazardous to increase the understanding of how the ship was designed and built but also adapted to become a British warship.
2019 site plan for the main site
The main site currently consists of a large coherent section of the port side that extends forward from approximately amidships to the cutwater and from the gun deck down to the keel. There are 11 guns located on the west side of the site with 7 lying across the remains of the gundeck. Immediately below the forward most guns the deck beams supporting the remains of the gundeck can be seen.
The keel lies across the east side of the site and includes the remains of the stem and cutwater at the bow. The visible hull structure consists of double frames sandwiched between outer and ceiling planking. In addition, a series of double riders can be seen above the ceiling along the east side. A large concretion at the south east corner of the site is a shot mound consisting mainly of round shot but with some double headed shot.
2014 Gun site
In 2014 a new area of the wreck was located which consisted of 10 iron guns. Their sizes are consistent with the Hazardous’s 12 and 6-pounder guns, which were located on the upper and quarter decks.
2019 gun site
During the 2019 diving season a further 10 guns were found approximately 100m north west of the main site. The size of guns appear consistent with the Hazardous’s 12 and 6-pounder guns, which were mounted on the upper and quarter decks. As well as the guns there was an anchor and scatters of round cast shot and wrought double headed shot. Below is underwater footage taken shortly after it was first discovered plus an orthophotomosaic and depth elevation model. You’ll notice there are only nine guns visible in the survey, the tenth was found a few weeks later after further sand movement revealed it. Research is ongoing to understand how the the 2014 and 2019 gun sites ended 100m north and south of the main site but it seems the upper parts of the ship broke away after the initial wrecking.