Maritime Archaeology Updates

Diving Deeper with the Maritime Archaeology Trust

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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.

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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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

Bouldnor Cliff 2016 Fieldwork Photo Gallery

Photos from the 2016 Bouldnor Cliff diving fieldwork.