A deadeye, (or deadman’s eye), is a cylindrical disc of wood with three multiple holes. In the golden days of sail, these were traditionally used as the method of increasing the tension in the standing rigging in sailing ships. In particular, they were used to gain mechanical advantage when tensioning the shrouds. This was especially necessary in the days when the only working force on board was manpower.

Dead Eyes were usually made of wood with either rope or an iron band wound around the perimeter. The two most common types of deadeyes are those with one hole, also known as the bull’s eye, and those with three holes. The three holed deadeyes were used in pairs.

All of the Dead Eyes found on Invincible were made from Elm and as a result, these artefacts generally survived well in the sea.


Excavation number - 87/0108. This dead eye measures 12" diameter and 5" thick. It was recovered on the 6th August 1987. The historic Invincible archives for this object reads: - Elm. 12" dia. Badly eroded and worm eaten on one side. On the other side there is a large split. Completely stable. Stained black from iron salts. There is iron residue where once there was an iron band around the outside. Originally marked with 'X11' to denote 12" dia. the 'X' is now missing but the '11' is clearly visible. The conservation record simply reads: -Air dried. Treated with teak oil.

Excavation number - 87/0109. This one is clearly marked with the roman numeral 'X' denoting that it is 10" diameter. The archive description reads: - Elm. 10" dia marked clearly with 'X' denoting the dia. Badly worm eaten at one end. Completely stable. I like this one. A good solid little dead eye and the material in extremely good condition and attractive. I currently have this one on display in my little office.

Excavation number - 87/0094. Another dead eye recovered during the 1987 diving season. Although there is some degradation at one end and gribble worm attack on most of the surface, the material is sound and in good condition. The Archive description reads: - Some iron concretion in groove indicating this dead eye was originally bound in wrought iron in readiness for use. Gribble worm attack. Piece of wood broken off on one side.

The conservation record reads: - Treated with linseed oil. This left a slightly sticky feel to the material. Stable.

Excavation number - 88/0290. Although not the largest of the dead eyes recovered, this one is still quite a beast measuring 18" dia and 9" in thickness. Made from solid elm it is quite heavy. I seized a piece of the Invinicble 9" rope around the outside of this one and then used new, natural hemp for the whipping. Now with a private collector.