National Archaeology Week: WreckMap Britain 2005 Launched

By Helen Barrett | 17 July 2005
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Picture shows diver underwater recording data near an anchor.

The Nautical Archaeology Society's Royal Adelaide anchor survey. © NAS Training

The Nautical Archaeology Society is calling on every diver in the UK to help locate and record Britain’s shipwrecks for its WreckMap Britain 2005 project, which will run until August 31 2005.

The project, launched on Saturday July 16 2005 as part of National Archaeology Week, asks divers to record data, photograph, video and even sketch shipwrecks as part of their normal dive. The NAS will collate the findings, plot shipwreck locations onto a map to be available online, and share valuable information with the national archive services – English Heritage, Historic Scotland and CADW in Wales.

“Nobody really knows how many wrecks are around our coasts,” said NAS project officer Mark Beattie-Edwards. “We think the records we have are just scratching the surface.”

The NAS has records of 40,000 historic ship losses around the coast, but estimates that at least 100,000 shipwrecks exist around the UK. Of those, it has co-ordinates of just 6000. It hopes the project will both uncover previously unknown shipwrecks, and add to the quality of existing information about documented sites.

“The estimated figure of 100,000 wrecks corresponds roughly to the number of active divers in the UK, so we are asking every diver to dedicate at least one dive to the project this summer,” said Beattie-Edwards.

Picture shows diver underwater next to shipwreck with plant life.

Nautical Archaeology Society SS Thesis diver and a deck winch. © NAS Training

Recording forms will be available from the NAS website, as well as information and advice on what to record, including a shipwreck’s features, dimensions and visible artefacts.

“Most divers will record and photograph a wreck’s structure, like rudders and cables,” said Beattie-Edwards. “But in the past, divers have seen anything from Victorian toilets, bottles, pocket watches – all personal items belonging to a ship’s crew. Some wrecks have cannons visible, or perhaps small items like shot.”

To launch WreckMap Britain, the NAS are to host a fact-finding dive at Selsey beach, Hayling Island, Hampshire on July 18. Divers will have the opportunity to explore and document the wreck of a late 18th century barge, which once carried Portland stone, with its hull, winch and cargo still visible.

“We hope to demonstrate what a small group of divers can achieve, the amount of valuable information that can be collected, and just how easy it can be,” said Beattie-Edwards.

Further information and recording forms are available from the Nautical Archaeology Society – 023 9281 8419 or online at www.nasportsmouth.org.uk

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