Above: The hull of the Mary Rose.
The Mary Rose will be the last great ship salvaged from British waters, Historic England has said, as visitors will explore shipwrecks using virtual reality instead.
Mark Dunkley, chief maritime archaeologist at Historic England, said the agency was working on allowing visitors to explore shipwrecks using VR headsets because it was too expensive and labour-intensive to bring them up from the deep.
There are thought to be more than 40,000 shipwrecks around the British coast, but very few of them have been identified and explored by archaeologists.
The Mary Rose, Henry VIII's beloved warship which sank in 1545 in the Solent, was salvaged in 1982 and remains the largest major recovery project of its kind ever undertaken in the world.
Last year a new visitor centre and museum in Portsmouth was finally completed to house the wreck. But speaking as it announced that two more wrecks had been listed by the Government, Historic England says it's likely to remain one of a kind.
Mark Dunkley, chief maritime archaeologist at Historic England, said: "It's a change in policy to be more pragmatic about what we can really do.
"With the Mary Rose, that came up when I was still in short trousers in the 1980s and the process has only just finished, with the new museum being completed last year.
The Mary Rose raising. A diver helping to pump water from the hull CREDIT: THE TIMES
I don't think any massive shipwreck excavation is ever going to happen like that again, so the work that Historic England is doing is keeping these shipwrecks alive by virtual reality."
Three ships can currently be explored using VR headsets - HMS Invincible, HMS Colossal and HMT Arfon, and the Government agency is working on adding more.
A pair of 17th or 18th century merchant ships, complete with cannons, which sank near Chesil Beach, and a First World War U-boat near Whitby, in North Yorkshire, have been granted protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it announced today, bringing the number of protected wreck sites off the coast of England to 53.
Protected wrecks can only be explored by licensed divers, and it is illegal to explore or remove items from them without permission.
"It is possible that the Chesil Beach cannon sites could be the Dutch West Indiaman ‘De Hoop’ which stranded at Chesil Cove in 1749 and British cargo vessel ‘Squirrel’ which stranded on Chesil Beach in 1750," Historic England said.
The U-boat is a German Imperial Navy UC-70 mine-laying submarine which was commissioned in 1916. The submarine conducted 10 patrols and sank 40 ships during the war before being bombed on 28 August 1918, with the loss of all its crew.
Historic England said it was also investigating a new shipwreck at Tankerton, near Whitstable in North Kent, the remains of an oak-botttomed boat.
Volunteers showing the outline of the newly discovered Tankerton wreck near Whitstable, North Kent. CREDIT: CHRIS REDGRAVE /HISTORIC ENGLAND
Richard Bright-Paul, of the Shipwreck Project, a local group which helped discover and map the Chesil Beach site, said he hoped some of the items from the wrecks would be recovered, identified and exhibited to the public.
He said there was a danger sites could be damaged by tides and sediment movement, and added that it was difficult to identify items when still underwater.
"The things that tend to survive, like the cannon and cannonballs, get a build-up of lime crust which means that you can't see anything on the outside of them.
"It needs to be done by somebody who really knows what they're doing, because if you just bring them up, knock the crust off and leave it there, it will just crumble to rust.
"You also need to make it available to the public and put it on display. One of the things that we don't have in this area is a good museum to display these things," he said.
The public can use Oculus Rift headsets provided by Historic England or use much cheaper Google Cardboard at home to tour the wrecks on its website.
"Divers like to go down and see these things but at the same time we are developing these virtual museums to allow anyone to visit them from their desktops," added Mr Dunkley.
"You can put the headset on and see the wreck in 1:1 scale - this is even more exciting [than seeing it in person], I'd say. You can swim around it and underneath it.
"The work of Historic England has shown that there's much more to our maritime history than the Mary Rose."