Historical information

This sheet of copper sheathing or muntz metal has been recovered from the sea. It has been damaged by reaction of the metals to the sea, it has encrustations from the sea such as sand, and other damage has caused the edges to break away or fold over.

Early timber sailing ships had a problem of the timber hulls being eaten through by the marine animals called Teredo Worms, sometimes called ‘sea worms’ or ‘termites of the sea’. The worms bore holes into wood that is immersed in sea water and the bacteria inside the worms digest the wood.
Shipbuilders tried to prevent this problem by applying coatings of tar, wax, lead or pitch onto the timber. In the 18th and 19th centuries the outside of their ships were sheathed in copper sheathing or a combination of 60 percent copper and 40 percent zinc (called Muntz metal). The ships would be re-metalled periodically to ensure the sheathing would remain effective.

In more recent times the ships are protected with a toxic coating.

Physical description

Piece of Muntz metal, copper/zinc sheathing for protecting ship hulls.