Today marked a big step for this year’s Vietnam maritime archaeology project, namely: the first (archaeological) dives and surveys. After spending the first 2 days getting acclimatised and testing the diving skills of all the participants, the time had finally come to head out to open sea.
The main diving sites for this project will be near the Vietnamese island group of Cu Lao Cham, also known as the Cham islands. The Cham islands are located just east off the coast of the city of Hoi-An and the whole area is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. The main and only inhabited island of the Cham islands is Hon Lao and this island will therefore be the main focus of the project at this stage.
The geological layout of the bay of Hon Lao, in which the island its main harbour is situated, creates a “death-trap” for ships anchored there during a typhoon and heavy winds. This means that suddenly changing tides and weather conditions can cause large numbers of ships to sink here, especially during the historical period. These ships often contain a plethora of information regarding the different foreign trading parties that would visit the Cham islands. It is up to us to retrieve the information that sank along with these ships.
At approximately 10:00 AM the first team of divers exited the ship to test the waters and start the first archaeological survey of this year’s project. The main approach that will be used for surveying during this project is the swim-line search. Which is basically a team of divers that are spread out alongside a rope, surveying a large area at the same time. This technique was not used today however due to the it being the first day and therefore the different diving teams still need to grow accustomed to each-other.
Instead of using the swim-line search, today’s dives consisted mainly out of a free swim survey which, while not the most efficient technique, also came up with a number of results. The most noteworthy of which was a large anchor found in relatively shallow water (>6 meter). While these finds are not necessarily always what you are looking for, they can serve as base or starting points for future surveys and it is therefore important to document the coordinates/exact location of where they are found.
Whilst the more experienced divers were already out at sea conducting surveys, some of the PADI-trainees experienced their first open sea dive today, with the rest of the PADI –trainees following tomorrow. Once these trainees are done with their PADI courses by the end of this week they can join the rest of the group in conducting underwater-surveys and will hopefully be valuable assets for the project!
Once again, greetings from Hoi-An.
Mike de Booij
Pictures by: Ian Mccan and Wongsakorn Rahothan