Maritime Archaeology Updates

Diving Deeper with the Maritime Archaeology Trust

Tag: water

#MuseumWeek2017: Theme of the day, BOOKS!

Museum Week is an international online event that is running from 19th to 25th June 2017. Organised in collaboration with UNESCO, the Museum Week is a chance for heritage institutions across the world to share and talk about our passion for heritage with the public through social media. This year we are celebrating equality by dedicating the Museum Week to all women in the world.

The Maritime Archaeology Trust will be sharing with you our take on Museum Week. In collaboration with the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight we will be looking through their collections and bring you artefacts and histories that are linked in with the theme of the day.

The Friday theme during Museum Week is BOOKS!

Logbook from the whaling ship Diana from hull, which accounts for a very tragic story. Source: http://www.mylearning.org/ships-log-of-the-diana/p-4300/

Or in our case, more accurately logbooks! A logbook or ship’s log is a record of important events that happened during the ship’s journey. This also includes management, operation and navigation of the ship.

The logbook was a key part of navigating a ship. Navigation is largely based on defining the latitude and longitude of the ship’s location. The longitude is the more difficult one to determine, as it requires the sailor to know the local time to determine what time zone they were travelling through, and as such determine their location by combining the ship’s latitude position. Medieval sailors were unable to determine the latitude-longitude completely accurately, due to the technology that was available to them at the time. As such the sailors heavily relied on the dead reckoning system. The dead reckoning principle works the following way. The sailor would start by taking a known or assumed position of the ship. Then the heading and the speed of the ship from this location would be measured, as well as the speed of the ocean currents, the leeward (downwind) drift, and how long the ship spent at each heading. Based on this information, the navigator could determine the course of the ship and how far the ship had travelled. This was noted down in the logbook, which was then used to as a reference to check the accuracy of the predicted dead reckoning.

A ship’s logbook holds a huge wealth of material for maritime archaeologists. Finding a ship’s logbook is like finding a gold mine. We can retrace the journey of the ship from the logbook and compare that to any remains we may have found. This is valuable when trying to determine the identity of a wreck for example. It also gives us a great insight into what life on board was like. For a great example is an extract from the logbook of the Halsewell.  The Halsewell was a merchant ship based in the East India Company. There is a record in their logbook from 19th October 1781, where Lord Nelson (then Captain) recruits experienced sailors for the Navy, leaving the ship with only “foreigners and servants”.

Captain Nelson recruiting experienced sailors from the Haslewell. Source: http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item105531.html

The Shipwreck Centre also holds logbooks in their collection. An example can be seen here of the logbook from the HMS Victory which subsequently became the logbook of the HMS Duke of Wellington, the ship that replaced the HMS Victory as the Port Admiral flagship at Portsmouth between 1869 and 1891 (McKay 1987:9). Next time you visit the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight, try to spot the logbook which is on display next to old toothpaste and wood from the Mary Rose!

Cadet logbook of the HMS Victory on display in the Shipwreck Centre. Source: Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum

#MuseumWeek2017: Theme of the day, STORIES!

Museum Week is an international online event that is running from 19th to 25th June 2017. Organised in collaboration with UNESCO, the Museum Week is a chance for heritage institions across the world to share and talk about our passion for heritage with the public through social media. This year we are celebrating equality by dedicating the Museum Week to all women in the world.

The Maritime Archaeology Trust will be sharing with you our take on Museum Week. In collaboration with the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight we will be looking through their collections and bring you artefacts and histories that are linked in with the theme of the day.

The Little Mermaid by E.S. Hardy, 19th century painting. Source: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/little-mermaid-e-s-hardy.html

The Thursday theme is, STORIES!

We have a special one for you today! There are probably very few people in the world who haven’t heard about the myth of mermaids. But did you know that in the Victorian period “real” mermaids were sold as collectables?

The myths of the mermaids and mermen date back as far as 1000 BC. The Assyrian legends told of a queen who accidentally killed her lover. In despair she threw herself into the sea to transform into a fish but the water only transformed half of her body and as such she became half fish and half human.

Stories of similar creatures can be found across the world. In Africa the legend of Mami Wata, a powerful water spirit, sometimes takes the shape of a mermaid. She is not too dissimilar from the legends of European mermaids (think HC Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”). Interestingly the legend of the mermaid Lasirn in the Caribbean has resemblance to both the African and European legends. We also find records of mermaid stories and sightings from the American, Inuit, Indonesian, Australian and Japanese cultures.

A “Feejee merman” can be found in the collection at the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight. Image credits: The Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum

The collectable mermaid hoax has been around for centuries. However, the most famous version was created by an American conman, P.T. Barnum, in 1842. Known as the “Feejee mermaid”, it was said that this mermaid corpse had been caught near the Fiji islands in the South Pacific. In actual fact the head of the “mermaid” was of a monkey while the tail was from a fish. Put together and dried out it does make for a quite convincing deep-water creature. During the Victorian period people would buy these “mermaids” as collectables from their trips. Especially in Japan this became a very popular thing to sell to the tourists. The “Feejee mermaid” is now often referred to as the Japanese monkey-fish.

When you visit the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum on the Isle of Wight be sure to check out the “Feejee mermaid” we have in our collection!

Forgotten Wrecks of the Devon Coast: Geophysics and Diving

WholeAreaMap

Distribution of First World War wrecks within the Devon study area (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

As part of the Forgotten Wrecks project this summer the Maritime Archaeology Trust sent out a team of divers to find and document a number of WW1 wrecks off the South Devon Coast. In order to assist the divers in finding these wrecks bathymetric maps were consulted. Much like navigational charts used by mariners these maps show the topographic features of the seafloor. However, modern techniques such as multibeam bathymetry, paint a far higher resolution image of the seafloor with measurements made every few metres.  As a result, even fine details such as the orientation of shipwrecks and the positions of larger objects such as boilers and anchors on these sites, can be seen.

Within the area surveyed by the Maritime Coastguard Agency between 2012 and 2015 (data freely available from aws2.caris.com) 31 of the 48 wrecks which had been identified as lying within the south Devon study area reviewed ahead of diving operations were visible.

Once identified a zoomed in map was created of each wreck. The examples shown here are of the British Navy trawler, the Benton Castle and cargo ship, the Newholm. Both of which sank after hitting mines, leading to the loss of 30 lives in total. These images and images of the other wrecks were used by the diving team to help select individual sites to dive and then plan their dives more effectively.

BentonCastle_geophysics

Geophysical survey image of the Benton Castle (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

Newholm_geophysics

Geophysical survey image of the Newholm (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

The dive team operated out of Dartmouth using Falcon Diving Charters (http://falcondivingcharters.com/) during the week of 27th June to the 1st July. Despite some challenging weather conditions the team managed to reach a number of the Forgotten Wrecks to undertake survey and photogrammetric recording.

Written by Amelia Astley

To find out more about the Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project, click here.

Newholme_site_photo

Diver photographs detail of the wreck structure of the Newholm.

Benton_Castle_site_photo

Marine life encrusts the remains of the wreck of the Benton Castle.

 

Bouldnor Cliff: A World Class Site

Mohamed Ziad

Mohamed and Ziad

Bouldnor Cliff isn’t just important from a British perspective: it is a unique site that interests people from all over the world! The diving team included archaeologists from the Maritime Archaeology Trust and even two divers who’d traveled all the way from Egypt to help with the work and see the remains of the Mesolithic settlement. Ziad and Mohamed flew to Britain when volunteers were needed to join the Bouldnor Cliff survey, and came to help with the photogrammetry work around the site. They’ve done work all around the world, including in Montenegro, Lebanon, Egypt and Italy, but this was their first time diving in the U.K.

Ready for that renowned British summer, Ziad and Mohamed joined the team on the boat, keen to explore the famous site. Undeterred by the wind and rain of the first day (it is summer, after all), they were ready to get stuck in and brave the chilly Solent. Layered up and as prepared as can be for the colder climate they jumped in to get to work. The cold was no match for their enthusiasm and they worked hard, familiarising themselves with the site and the new conditions.

And what did they have to say after their first dive? Ziad had only one word: ‘challenge’!

Now used to the cold and the weather, they carried on diving on the site, contributing hundreds of photos to the photogrammetric survey, and taking footage on a GoPro. Their dedication is such that the skipper even poured warm water into their wetsuits before a dive! Inspired by Ziad’s one-word summary, Mohamed described the site as an ‘adventure’.

Ziad and Mohamed aren’t the only members of the #SaveBouldnor team from abroad – Sarah is from the United States, and Miguel is a PhD student from Lisbon, Portugal. Sarah works at the Maritime Archaeology Trust, and considers the site to be ‘groundbreaking’!

Miguel came to Bouldnor Cliff to gain experience in a new environment, and to improve his skills in 3D reconstruction and recording. Miguel described the site as ‘exciting’ and has contributed a lot of work to the photographic record.

It’s not just maritime archaeologists who find Bouldnor Cliff fascinating – Andy has worked closely with the Trust for fifteen years. He finds the site ‘remarkable’, and, as a long-time diving enthusiast, is helping out on-site.

Bouldnor Cliff is a special site that is always turning up new information and fascinating artefacts. It has something of interest for people from all over the world, from different backgrounds, and this multi-national team has come together to work to save Bouldnor, and learn its secrets. Work like this is invaluable, and will contribute to the continuing record of Bouldnor Cliff, as the MAT monitor the site’s condition and explore new features.

Bouldnor Cliff Day Two: 15/06/2016

Photo 15-06-2016, 15 03 58  Another day on Bouldnor Cliff reveals another exciting discovery. Garry Momber took part in the day’s first dive, and began to clear away some of the layer of mud covering the site. Underneath this mud he found a series of planks lying parallel to each other. Further dives will include more work on this potential platform, so the archaeologists can try to interpret the feature and its purpose. Yesterday, a diver found and recovered a small piece of flat, pointed timber that may turn out to be the end of a plank. Garry also recovered a small piece of wood, demonstrating the excellent preservation on this site. It is still possible to find organic material that is over 8,000 years old!

Photo 15-06-2016, 15 20 56Miguel, Ziad, and Mohamed are still hard at work on the photogrammetric work. Miguel has been acting as underwater photographer, taking pictures of Garry at work and using a 6m x 2m grid to take photos to create a photogrammetric model of the site and some of the exposed timbers. Ziad and Mohamed are doing similar work, both with and without photogrammetric targets. The divers are working hard to ensure they don’t damage any of the exposed timbers as they do their work, and are being careful where they use targets. In places where the timber is fragile, it may be better to work without them. Eventually, the hundreds of photos taken will be combined together. They will be used to create a 3D model of the Mesolithic site, which can be manipulated and interpreted, and used for further study.

To everyone’s delight, the weather is much improved from yesterday, and conditions are much calmer. This is Ziad and Mohamed’s first time diving in the UK, but they are coping with the temperatures very well! On the third dive, the divers brought up some more timber which will be cleaned, and then studied for interpretation.

Every dive is revealing something new about the site. The researchers are keen to see what else can be learnt from this ancient settlement. Bouldnor Cliff is a unique site, and it has plenty more secrets to discover!

 

Bouldnor Cliff Day One: 14/06/16

The MAT Bouldnor Cliff dive team 2016

Just off the Isle of Wight is the site of Bouldnor Cliff. Bouldnor Cliff was a Mesolithic settlement, dating to 8,000 years ago. The finds from this site include worked timber and flints, and show that the inhabitants were using technology that was 2,000 years more advanced than expected in a site of this age!

The Mesolithic site is about eleven metres below the surface, and is part of the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation. Sadly, the tides of the Solent are eroding the site. More material is constantly being exposed, and subsequently is being threatened. The Maritime Archaeology Trust is working hard to monitor the site’s condition, and to recover material that is coming under threat.

The MAT is carrying out dives to create a record of the site, to document any changes that are taking place, and any exposed material. It is important to make frequent records of the site, and the plan is to use photogrammetry to create a 3D model. Divers first make a ‘pre-disturbance survey’, in order to ensure that the site is properly catalogued before making and changes or disturbing anything. Once the researchers are confident that there is a good record of the site and its contents, they are able to examine and rescue artefacts, and bring them to the surface for further study. These can be compared with the plan, in order to make note of where the artefacts were find, and piece together the site: a bit like putting together a big puzzle.

The divers set up a baseline at the site, in order to carry out the recording. A photographic survey was undertaken, to record the newly exposed features and document the site in its current condition, before any further work.

The first thing seen by the divers as they approached the site was some newly exposed timber, protruding from the bank. This timber was not visible last year, and has been revealed by the erosion. It appeared to have been worked, and looks like it may even be the remains of a platform. Later dives will aim to further study these timbers, and rescue them.

A later dive revealed a fellow archaeologist digging at Bouldnor Cliff: a lobster, with a collection of worked flints outside his burrow. Lobsters are frequent visitors to the site, and often turn up flints such as these. With the lobster’s help, the next dive recovered five small worked flints, and they were brought to the surface and inspected for the first time in 8,000 years.

The first day was a grand success, with four dives in total. The last of these dives included two new visitors; volunteers from Egypt who had come to see the site and assist in the photogrammetry. They were very impressed with what they saw, and can’t wait to return to the site and continue their study. The work at Bouldnor Cliff will continue, to ensure that the site is safe, any threatened material is recovered, and that we learn everything we can from this exciting site.

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Garry Momber talks Bouldnor Cliff
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Bouldnor Cliff #3 – Sunken Secrets

This is the last video before we go out diving!

This time Garry is visiting the Sunken Secrets Museum on the Isle of Wight. He shows us various pieces of timber, flint and string that has taught us a lot about the people living here during the mesolithic era. The findings are proving to be highly important, because they show the people were way more advanced than previously thought, by as much as 2000 years.

 

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Bouldnor Cliff #2 – past findings and discoveries

Our second video is out!

This time Sara Rich shows us some timber from earlier Bouldnor excavations and tells us what we can learn from them.

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Bouldnor Cliff #1 Where and what is it?

Take a look at our latest video!

Garry is on the Isle of Wight discussing what we find at Bouldnor Cliff. He shows us what the submerged forests look like and what we can learn about England in the mesolithic era, emphasising the importance of this site.

We are doing our best to retrieve as much as we can before it all erodes away.

You can help us save Bouldnor Cliff.

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Why is Bouldnor Cliff so special?

In 1999, whilst out diving, MAT discovered what we know as Bouldnor Cliff by the Isle of Wight. This used to be a highly populated area of land. Ever since the discovery there have been ongoing excavations and investigations to uncover the complex life of the people living on this piece of land during the mesolithic era, about 8000 years ago.

Bouldnor Cliff Excavation

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