After everything had been recorded, chemical preservation began. Mrs Francis Talbot - Vassiliadou is a specialist in the preservation of damp wood. Her problem was how to turn the damp, mouldy wood into suitable wood for the restoration of the ship, without altering its dimensions, which was extremely difficult to do because after 2.300 years, the cellulose of the wood had dissolved and vanished. Therefore, if the wood was left to dry in atmospheric air it would lose most of its thickness and warp.
But human persistence can lead to success; in the case of preservation what was achieved was a scientific feat. In order to preserve the 6.000 pieces of the ancient ship, the scientist developed innovative techniques. She used synthetic wax or polyethylenoglycole as it is scientifically called. The process of preservation was first tested experimentally using small pieces of wood. After 6 months the small pieces of wood and the almonds showed a satisfactory degree of preservation but most pieces needed a year or more, as in the case of the wood that supported the mast, which took two years. All pieces were first washed carefully and then put in large metal boxes which were warmed up and soaked with hydrolytic wax. When this process was concluded, every piece was placed in protective nylon bags and laid on slightly warmed up shelves. There the wood gradually reached its normal temperature. If left to cool abruptly it would have cracked and destroyed itself.
Four people spent a whole year working on the final stage of wood preservation. They removed the layer of wax covering the wood and the wood revealed its shiny surface again, with all its grooves and even the marks that were left on it by the ancient craftsman's hammer.
Information taken from CyBC's documentary
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Monday, May 27, 1996 11:59:56 PM