Maritime Archaeology Updates

Diving Deeper with the Maritime Archaeology Trust

Author: blog-mat-admin (page 2 of 4)

Volunteer in Focus: Richard Wyatt

In light of National Volunteer Week 2017, the Maritime Archaeology Trust would like to highlight some of the important work contributed by our volunteers. We sent out a questionnaire for our volunteers to fill in and give us their view on what it is like to volunteer for the Maritime Archaeology Trust. This is what Mr Richard Wyatt thought.

What do you do as a volunteer for the Maritime Archaeology Trust?

Production of Podcasts, re-organisation of basement storage, on-line research, field surveys, archive research, Fort Victoria audios, Maritime Bus, website proof-reading and editing, IT support.

How did you get involved?

An interest in archaeology (via ex-girlfriend), love of sailing & the sea (star-sign Cancer) via SVS and enthusiasm of Gareth Owen.

Anything you have learnt from working with the Trust?

Survey techniques, use of audio equipment (including software), the beauty of 1st edition OS maps, the mind-boggling resource that is the National Archives. Oh, and a great deal about the Hamble River (except whether it should the River Hamble.)

Have you enjoyed anything in particular?

The session at The Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis after re-organising the servers, getting out of the wind and onto a relatively smooth surface after several hours on Oyster Island, and the engine-room of SS Shieldhall. But especially the assistance and appreciation of the MAT team.

To learn more about what kind of work our volunteers do for the Trust, see the following blog post:

Have you got a spare hour or day in the week and looking for something to do? Fancy learning new skills in archaeology? Want to learn more about our maritime heritage? Well why not drop us an email on today and find out more?

Volunteer in Focus: Rachel Patten

In light of National Volunteer Week 2017, the Maritime Archaeology Trust would like to highlight some of the important work contributed by our volunteers. We sent out a questionnaire for our volunteers to fill in and give us their view on what it is like to volunteer for the Maritime Archaeology Trust. This is what Ms Rachel Patten thought.

What do you do as a volunteer for the Maritime Archaeology Trust?

I do data entry which has so far included:

Entering information about shipwrecks of WW1 from different sources such as digital copies of old shipping documents and researchers hand written notes into an Excel database.

Inputting survey data from questionnaires given to people at event talks into an online database.

Making digital copies of physical documents and sorting documents into the correct folders.


How did you get involved?

I wanted real world experience in data entry so an education and employment advisor from the council suggested the Maritime Archaeology Trust to me.


Anything you have learnt from working with the Trust?

I have learnt of the vast amount of work done by the trust to keep people informed about marine archaeology and in particular the work done about the shipwrecks of WW1 and WW2.

I have learnt of the sheer amount of wrecks in the local area.

I have learnt how they are using virtual reality in order to show people the wrecks.

I have learnt how to do data entry with a variety of sources and applications.


Have you enjoyed anything in particular?

I have enjoyed the variety of work I have been assigned.

I have enjoyed working with a happy and supportive team.

To learn more about what kind of work our volunteers do for the Trust, see the following blog post:

Have you got a spare hour or day in the week and looking for something to do? Fancy learning new skills in archaeology? Want to learn more about our maritime heritage? Well why not drop us an email on today and find out more?

National Volunteering Week 1st June to 7th June 2017

As a non-profit charity organisation, the Maritime Archaeology Trust is very dependent on the amazing work our volunteers do for us! Over the years our volunteers have joined us in numerous projects and helped complete various tasks.

The people who work with us have come from various different backgrounds and bring in a range of skills which has been a tremendous resource for us. We have had divers provide us with pictures and detailed information of the wrecks they have dived on, which makes it possible for us to get primary data from the site without actually visiting it ourselves. Our current project, Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War, has 1100 sites that are included and without the support from the diving community this would be an impossible task for us to tackle.

Recording a wreck on the foreshore

Mr Steve Harvey has kindly lent his drone flying expertise to us during several site visits!

In addition to underwater sites we have also located relevant sites on the foreshore. The Trust has regular excursions to these sites where we together with volunteers record the features and current conditions of the wrecks. We have had volunteers bring their own drone equipment which allowed us to get aerial footage of the site as well as teaching other volunteers how to fly a drone.

The information we collect as part of the project doesn’t just come from primary archaeological sites. We also have volunteers who travel to various archives to wade through the wealth of information that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was archived. In addition to this we also record artefacts that are relevant to the wrecks of the First World War. The volunteers create a detailed photographic and written record of each artefact we record.

Volunteers recording artefacts at the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight

All of this information will then have to be put into a database where it is accessible to everyone. This is no small task with thousands of sites, documents and photographs to upload. Needless to say that without the help of volunteers working on making it all available, the majority of this information would be sat gathering dust on our servers.

Watercolour paintings by Mike Greaves

The work doesn’t end here however! Now the task is to let people know what we are up to and how they can access this information. As an organisation, the Trust regularly attends events locally and further afield. Our outreach team is often supported by volunteers who join them on the day to talk to the public. The displays we bring with us include artefacts for people to handle and electronic mini-airlifts and mini-ROVs for children to play with. The latter also requires regular maintenance which is also done by volunteers. During the events we attend we also bring with us free publications for people to read and take home. One of the most popular freebies we have available are the postcards with the beautiful watercolour artwork painted by one of our volunteers.

As illustrated in this post, the Maritime Archaeology Trust would simply not function in the same way without the brilliant work volunteers put in for us. In light of the National Volunteer Week 2017, the Maritime Archaeology Trust would like to highlight the work of our volunteers and thank you for your previous, current and future hard work! During the volunteering week we will be posting some of our volunteers’ stories of how they came to work with us, what they do and how it has benefitted them as well as us.

Fancy gaining some new skills and learning new things about our maritime past? You don’t have to be a qualified diver to volunteer and no previous maritime archaeological experience is required! Get in touch:

For more information about the volunteering opportunities available, please see this online booklet:

Qatar Marine Archaeological Project (QatarMAP) (update)

The MAT dive team are in Qatar this week to continue work on the QatarMAP project. A series of bad luck with regard to weather, and a breakdown of the air conditioning on the research vessel Janan, prevented the ship sailing early in the week. With the vessel alongside and temperatures around 40 degrees on board, the team sweated their way through the first day, testing and checking geophysical and dive equipment and continued processing of data from the previous week’s diving in Qatar.  At a meeting with an expat dive operator that evening, it was confirmed that due to conversion of different coordinate systems, many of the positions for the wrecks were not always reliably.

Approaching Janan after a dive

Then, a sudden break in the weather, and with the AC ‘partially’ fixed, the team made a dash to leave port on the evening of the 23 May. In less than ideal temperatures on board, the evening saw a 3 hour sail followed by a couple of hours of multibeam survey to ensure that the position of the wreck was correct to guarantee divers would land on it the next morning. At first light, divers loaded dive gear from Janan onto the small tender and dropped into the water to be rewarded by a breath-taking dive on a wooden dhow which still presented a lot of structure, (a dhow is a traditional sailing vessel, usually an Arab vessel found in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, with lateen sails and one or two masts). Photogrammetry and calibration measurements were carried out by the dive team, and following charging of cameras and lights, a further dive was warranted to ensure the production of a spectacular 3D model of such an amazing example of a traditional wooden shipwreck to enhance the maritime historical environmental record in Qatar.

Photographing the wreck


Further multibeam survey took place as temperatures increased onboard the vessel, and a third dive of the day in fading light, was on a charted wreck listed as danger (probably to shipping and therefore unable to sail Janan over it for confirmation with the multibeam). After a circular search of more than 50m out without success, the team came under attacked from a swarm of jellyfish that appeared while they were undertaking a safety stop on return to the surface.  Multibeam survey continued into the night to explore the seabed and the temperatures rose as the AC continued to fail. First light saw the dive team off to dive another possible position for the unsuccessful location of the previous days charted wreck site, but the increasing Shamal wind was affecting sea conditions making diving dangerous as the swell tossed the small dive boat around, and concerns also grew about the safe transfer of personnel and equipment back to Janan. A quick ‘dip’ down the shot line by a diver on communications confirmed that the wreck was not in this position either, but this still serves an important purpose by confirming that the wreck is not in the charted position and can be reported to the relevant authorities which will help when they issue their chart corrections.

Diver at the stem post

The weather was closing in as multibeam survey continued, exploring a seabed depression for its potential to contain preserved archaeological material in deeper sedimentary deposits.  ‘Sauna’ like conditions now prevailed on the bridge and on the working deck, and members of the team also continued the task of diagnosing the faults on the ROV (remotely operated vehicle). With Janan finally safely back alongside in Doha, the ROV was deployed into the water for a successful trial flight, this is another tool that could be used help with future investigations.

The AC on the vessel is now completely defunct and the weather has broken down again so the team continue to work on post-processing of data collected to produce an exciting 3D model of the dhow and produce a report of the very productive visit before returning to the UK at the weekend.

Qatar Marine Archaeological Project (QatarMAP)

The Qatar archaeological research and exploration project built on the work undertaken by the Qatar Museums to locate and record the submerged cultural heritage. The aim of underwater fieldwork was to begin condition surveys of known submerged marine archaeological heritage sites. The results will enhance the maritime Historic Environment Record with the additional benefit of making the underwater heritage resource more accessible to the Qatari population.

Rendered photomosaic of 50m long wreck recorded during the first week of diving

In the long term, areas of the sea bed will be surveyed to locate and identify more of Qatar’s underwater cultural heritage which includes submerged landscapes as well as shipwrecks. The Maritime Archaeology Trust (MAT) is working with the University of York, the Qatar Museums and Qatar University on the Qatar Maritime Archaeology Project (QatarMAP) to carry out these marine archaeological investigations. MAT divers visited Qatar in early May and diving from the dive boat Janan, with the help of divers from the Qatar University, carried out photographic survey over some shipwreck sites to produce 3D photomosaics which were calibrated with measuring scales positioned at different locations.

Diver from the Maritime Archaeology Trust conducting a 3D photomosaic survey on debris at the gravel pile

The MAT dive team are now back in Qatar to continue the work. Along with continued processing of data collected during the first week’s visit, testing and checking of geophysical equipment has been taking place until the bad weather abates which is likely to be this evening.

International Museum Day 2017: Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum, Isle of Wight

Antique diving helmets at the Shipwreck Centre

The Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum is a treasure hub of knowledge about the ocean’s sunken secrets, primarily around the Isle of Wight. Located at Arreton Barns Craft Village on the island, the museum attracts a visitor pool of all tastes and ages.

The collection held by the museum has almost solely been recovered and collected by Martin Woodward, a professional diver for 50 years. His passion for shipwrecks and maritime history has enthralled the public ever since he first opened his collection in 1978.

Martin Woodward testing the antique diving suit

The Shipwreck Centre holds an intriguing collection of curiosities. There is everything from antique diving equipment, ship’s navigational instruments, and artefacts recovered from famous Royal Navy vessels, to pieces of eight and even a real “mermaid”! Additionally there is also an exhibition dedicated the history and service of Lifeboats, with the focus on the Bembridge Lifeboat Station.

On the 11th April 2017, the Maritime Archaeology Trust took over the management of the Shipwreck Museum from Mr Woodward (blog post). Our plans for the future are to build on the amazing collection that already exists. We are looking to expand the museum for more displays, continuously research the artefacts and the stories that are connected with them, and also adding the latest high tech visualisation technology to display the collection in a modern light.

Inside the Shipwreck Centre

So in honour of the International Museum Day 2017 we would like to highlight this gem of a museum and hope that you will join us in making it even greater for the future.

For more information about the museum and to plan a visit, please see their website:


If you be interested in volunteering and being part of shaping the museum for the future please contact: curator[at]

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Maritime Archaeology Trust embraces the Isle of Wight Shipwreck Centre

To celebrate the MAT taking over the management of the Isle of Wight Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum an event on the 11th April welcomed over 130 guests to hear about the background to the centre, plans for the future and the significance of the collection for the Isle of Wight.

New MAT Patron Dan Snow officially opened the evening alongside the owner of the collection, Martin Woodward, MAT President Martin White, MAT Chairperson Michael Woodhall, MAT Director Garry Momber and key staff and supporters.

MAT plans to develop the centre over the coming years through further research on the artefacts, increasing space for new interpretation and adding shipwreck displays that use the latest high tech visualisation technology. These state of the art exhibits will attract a large audience providing sponsorship opportunities for affiliated businesses.

We hope to build a group of volunteers to help realise our plans and be involved with artefact recording, events and introducing members of the public to the collection. If you might be interested in volunteering at the centre, then please get in touch via: curator[at]

You can also support the MAT’s work at the Shipwreck Centre through:

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Becoming a Friend of the Trust for opportunities to be involved in exclusive events and activities

Tolkien arrives in Southampton on hospital ship: 100 years ago today

100 years ago today (09/11/1916), 24 year old 2nd Lieutenant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien arrived in Southampton, one of the hundreds of wounded and ill servicemen returning home aboard the Hospital Ship Asturiashmhs-asturias-2-1914-1917t-1

The Asturias was the third hospital ship to arrive in Southampton that day, the majority of injured coming fresh from the battles raging on the Somme. Tolkien had fought on the Somme and evaded injury, but four months of living in lice infested trenches had resulted in Trench Fever. Tolkien was taken by ambulance train from the battlefield to a hospital in Le Touquet where he remained for a week, but when his condition worsened he was ordered back to Blighty, sailing from Le Havre. On arrival in Southampton, ambulance trains were waiting to transport the patients to hospitals around the country, as close as possible to their home towns. Tolkien was put on a train bound for Birmingham where he would be reunited with his wife (whom he had barely seen since their wedding the year before). So efficient was the wartime transport system, that this whole journey was completed in a single day.


Tolkien 1916

Tolkien spent the remainder of the war between hospital and Home Service camps. Although unable to fully shake off the illness, the lice probably saved his life, as following his departure, the remainder of his battalion, 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, 74th Brigade, were sent to Ypres where they were almost completely wiped out.

In his biography, Tolkien states that by 1918 all but one of his closest friends were dead. It was during the war years that he began to write. His experiences on the battlefields infused in his writing, evident in his most famous works: The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). To read more about Tolkien’s war click here

With hammocks for 1200 patients, the Asturias was one of the largest of the 77 Royal Navy Hospital Ships operating in WW1. The Asturias was one of many hospital ships sailing daily between Le Havre and Southampton. However being on board a hospital ship was no guarantee of safety. 24 hospital ships were sunk by enemy action with huge loss of life. The Asturias was no exception, torpedoed off the Devon coast on the 20th March 1917. Click here to read about the fate of the Asturias.


Reproduced with the permission of Mike Greaves ASGFA

Lost beneath the waves: Ancient Landscapes and Wartime Wrecks

On Sunday 16th October, Garry Momber, Director of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, will be speaking at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival.

Garry’s talk will cover two archaeological projects of major interest and importance to the Island:

Bouldnor Cliff: A submerged pre-historic site eleven meters below the surface and approximately 250 metres offshore of Bouldnor, near Yarmouth. Excavations have been continuing at Bouldnor Cliff since the 8,000 year old Mesolithic settlement was first identified in 1999, when a lobster was seen throwing Stone Age worked flints from its burrow. Since then the site has yielded numerous secrets. The material so far recovered has already demonstrated that the technology of the era was 2,000 years ahead of what archaeologists previously believed.

HLF Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War: With over 1000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast alone, the conflict of WW1 has left a rich legacy and many associated stories of bravery and sacrifice. These underwater memorials represent the vestiges of a vital, yet little known, struggle that took place on a daily basis, just off our shores.

Time: 10.30 – 11.30 am

Location: Northwood House, Isle of Wight

Cost: £8.50

Book your tickets here!

Menhir de la Tremblais

Near the village of Saint-Samson-sur-Rance, in Brittany, France, we find this interesting Neolithic piece of stone.

Pierre Longue menhir of Thiemblaye

The menhir stands alone at 6 meters in length, leaning at just over  45 degrees. It is a large block of granite and quartz, with a relatively polished, flat look.

Most of the time that is all it seems to be. However, when the sun hits it just right, beautiful markings and carvings appear. Carvings of crosses, leaves, axes, waves and various animals.


There are several legends surrounding this monument. One legend says it is one of three stones closing the entrance to hell. This belief gave it the name “Bonde de l’Enfer,” loosely meaning “Leap From Hell.”

Another legend says that a young girl who wants to get married should climb on top of the menhir and slide down in her “birth pants.” Subsequently, she will be wed within a year.

A final legend tells a story of Samson of Dol who faced the temptations of the Devil nearby, and when the Devil failed, it whipped the stone, creating some of the marks we can see today.



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