Category Archives: Studying abroad: maritime archaeology in Denmark

The Hanseatic city of Stralsund

Studying maritime archaeology in Esbjerg: Field school and summer events

We have been very busy the last few months with school, traveling and celebrating the holidays. That is why we will take you a few months back and tell you about all the exiting things we have been doing since May.

The International Viking Market

A few weeks before our final exam of the year, the International Viking Market was held in the Viking Centre in Ribe. To gain extra information about the Vikings for our exam, but also for a nice day out, we had organized a trip to the Viking Centre with MASE. In the Viking Centre people dress up and live like the Vikings did, and it can be compared to the Dutch theme park Archeon. Houses, food, games, everything was made and done as it would have been in the Viking Age hundreds of years ago. We went into different houses and even had the change to feel like Ragnar Lothbrock, by sitting in the Viking throne. We played Viking games (board and throwing games, no beer involved J) and witnessed a Viking battle and a horse show. On the market itself, they sold everything that would have been used during the Viking Age. The people who sold their goods came from all over Europe. It was a very interesting and nice day, and we learnt a little bit more about the Vikings.

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Field school

The field school started on the first of June., and took place in Mukran on the island of Rügen, Germany. We stayed on the campsite of a hostel in Prora. This area is famous for the colossal hotels that were built for Nazi-tourism. The hostel itself had been renovated from Nazi-hotel-ruin to the Jugendherberg where we stayed. For three weeks we dived at a 16th century wreck, probably of Danish origin. We made drawings, photos and videos of the wreck, and also got coordinates so we have the exact location of the wreck. The wreck had first been documented in the mid ’80’s and since then a lot of archaeologists and divers have had a look at it. The documentation of the wreck was however not up to today’s standard, and that is why it was up to us to make a final and exact recording of the wreck. During previous investigations quite a lot of finds were recovered. Therefore, we also had a look at these finds. The finds of the wreck were mostly located in Schwerin, a two-hour drive from Prora. Here we documented all the finds. There were guns, one wrought iron gun and a bronze gun, a lot of wooden artefacts, pottery and metal objects. These finds were photographed and the interesting ones were also drawn. For the two guns a photogrammetry model was made, so we can have a good look at them in 3D.

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Every day there was a dive team and a land team. The dive team was split up in two teams, one would dive in the morning, the second group would dive in the afternoon. The wreck needed to be cleaned first, which took much longer than expected, since the wreck was totally covered with seaweed and rocks. All the timbers needed to be tagged and drawn separately. Once the wreck was cleaned and the timbers were tagged, a diver with a GoPro could film the wreck in order to make a photogrammetry model of it. This coming semester we will work on the model and other documentation, and write a report on the wreck. The land team was responsible for the finds. These finds were given a number, were drawn and photographed. They also worked with a Total Station, to shoot the positions of the shipwreck.

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Besides all the work we had to do during the field school, we also had a few days off, when the weather was ‘bad’. Since the site was located on the Baltic Sea coast, an easterly wind caused high waves, which was too dangerous to dive in as the site was really close to shore and only 3 meters deep. But although we couldn’t dive it was really beautiful, sunny weather. We spent those days off in the beautiful nature park on Rügen, in the Hanseatic city of Stralsund, and walking and cycling on the island. It was an amazing place to be, with a lot of history and beautiful nature.

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Sailing in Roskilde

Only one day after we came back from the field school, we had another trip planned. This time we went back to Roskilde. The first time we went there, we spent our day looking at how Viking boats were built and how the Vikings lived. This time we got the experience at how to sail like a Viking! We sailed on a replica of a clinker-built boat, that was built originally in Norway. First we needed to row out of the harbour, before we could start sailing in the Roskilde Fjord. During the 2 hour sailing trip we learnt all about rigging, sailing and steering. We did a lot of different sailing-techniques, which made it really exiting.

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Introduction first-years

After a two-month holiday, we and other members of MASE organized an introduction for the new first year students. We went to Ribe, the oldest town of Denmark, where we got a tour from the Viking Museum through the town. It was really interesting, and even though we had the tour last year as well, we still learned some new things about the town. After the tour we had some free time, so we showed some of the people some nice places in the town. Afterwards we headed back to Esbjerg, where we had a nice barbeque to finish the day.

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Classes have started again. In the next blog we will give an overview of these classes and what can be expected from them. Until next time!


Robert de Hoop & Nicole Schoute

Studying maritime archaeology in Esbjerg: the second semester

Time flies, and the second semester of the Maritime Programme in Esbjerg is almost over! This second semester consisted of four courses:

  • Maritime Material Culture
  • IT & Remote Sensing
  • Preparation for the field school
  • Special Topics

Maritime Material Culture
During this course, we got introduced to different maritime material cultures from the Stone Age to the present day. We learned all about material such as pottery, cannons, anchors and many other objects. To learn more about ceramics from the Mediterranean our class went to Odense, where they have a big collection of Mediterranean artefacts. Also an important part of this course was ship construction from different centuries and areas. We went to the Roskilde Viking museum to learn more about Viking ship construction, and about experimental archaeology. We got a very interesting presentation on the famous ship burial Oseberg, which was found in Norway and dates to around 820 AD. After that we got a tour through the boat building wharf, and had a chance to look at the five Skuldelev ships inside the museum. In June we are going to sail on one of the reconstructed Viking ships!

Photo 1
Nicole looking at some Egyptian ceramics.

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We got an explanation on experimental archaeology during the tour of the boat building wharf.

IT & Remote Sensing
This course is a continuation of the methods course in the first semester, and is more practical. During this course we learned how to work with the software QGIS and with Inkscape. We learned how to make logos and how to digitalize field drawings in Inkscape, and how to analyse data and make maps with QGIS. Part of the course was a visit to Schleswig, where we could see how a sub-bottom profiler works, and how to do a survey with such a device. With a sub-bottom profiler, it is possible to detect archaeological sites and wrecks partially or wholly embedded in the sea-floor sediments. Unfortunately, nothing was found during this expedition. While we were in Schleswig, we got time to check out the early 4th century Nydam boat, which is on display in the Gottorp castle. It was much more impressive in real-life than you would expect. The boat is well over 23 m long and there was place for 30 rowers. This boat is one of the earliest examples of clinker (overlapping planks) construction.

Photo 4
The sub-bottom profiler in action, the data that is received can be seen on the monitor.
The Nydam boat at the Gottorp castle.

Field school
The field school this year takes place in June in northern Germany. We are going to record a 16th century carvel-built ship. To prepare for this field school we made a plan which details how we are going to clean, dive and record the shipwreck. Next school year, after the field school is done, we have to make a report of the recording.

Special Topics
Special Topics is a course, which is focused on the field school. In order to better ‘understand’ the 16th century shipwreck, we have researched shipbuilding construction from around the same time period. The class has been divided into different groups for this, and each group is looking into shipwrecks from a specific region. The different groups are: British Isles, Baltic Sea, Dutch, Mediterranean and French. Guess what we did.. A database has been created in which the different construction elements of each of these shipwrecks have been saved, and a summary has been written for each shipwreck. Once the shipwreck has been recorded this database can be used to compare the construction elements to those from other shipwrecks.

Photo 6
The Riberhus castle ruins.

Besides the courses, we are also part of the Maritime Archaeology Society Esbjerg (MASE), which is a student organization by students from the Maritime Programme. For MASE we are trying to organize as many things as possible for our program, mainly maritime related, which is hard because we are really busy with the courses and self-study. So far we organised a party, several film nights and a little excursion to the Ribe Viking museum, and we also visited the ruins of Riberhus castle. In May we are going to the International Viking market in Ribe, which will take place in the Ribe Viking Center. Reenactors recreate an authentic Viking market there. We are looking forward to that, and after the field school we will let you know how it was!

Robert & Nicole

Commercial Diving Training at the Maritime Archaeology Programme in Denmark

On the 16th of November the commercial diving course finally started! The dive course had a duration of four weeks. Generally, course days were long with up to 12hrs of teaching or practical diving per day. 

Week 1

The first week started with a lot of theory divided over 5 days. During this week we were introduced to diving history, physics and physiology, decompression tables, legislation, dive equipment, underwater work and diving hazards, dive planning and management, diving first aid, communication and seamanship.

Photo 1 - Getting dressed up for our first diving experience
Getting dressed up for our first diving experience!

At the end of day 4 and 5 we went to the pool to get our first diving experience. In the pool we got familiar with all the equipment, which is quite a lot as you can see on the photos! The diving equipment we use is Interspiro MK2. In the pool we also trained basic underwater skills, like our buoyancy, and we did a mask release drill.

Photo 2 - Mask release drill
Mask release drill

Week 2

After the two pool sessions it was already time for our first open water dive at Kjelst, just north of Esbjerg. In this shallow lake we spent four days of diving, doing different tasks each day. The first day was just an exploration dive.

Photo 3 - The dive site in Kjelst
The dive site in Kjelst

This time we had to dive with a lifeline and a communication system, so we had to get used to that. We got instructions either via the communication system, or via rope signals. The next few days we had to do another mask drill, underwater searches, navigation with a compass, rigging (knots) and rescue drills.

Photo 4 - Nicole ready to dive at Kjelst
Nicole is ready for her first open water dive in Kjelst
Minolta DSC
One of the rescue drills

At the last day of this week, we had a first aid course. Here we learned how to deal with most diving related accidents. We did CPR and did some roleplaying. At the end of the day we got our first aid certificate.

Week 3

On Sunday afternoon we left Esbjerg and went with our dive class to Hemmoor in Northern Germany. We went to a water-filled quarry, the Kreidensee, which attracts a lot of divers. In this lake traces can still be found of the quarry but also a lot of objects are submerged, like an airplane, a boat and a truck. The lake has a maximum depth of 60m. One of the goals for this week was to get used to dive to greater depths. During this week we dived to depths between 20 and 30 meters and we simulated decompression stops.

Photo 6 - The Kreidensee at Hemmoor.
The Kreidensee at Hemmoor

Because we stayed in houses near the dive site we had the chance to dive two times a day, in the morning usually an exploration dive at greater depth and in the afternoon a task. During this week we practiced our buoyancy, lifting objects with a lifting bag, practiced rigging (knots), rescue drills (ascent) and had to build a construction.

Photo 7 - Robert returning from an early morning dive at Hemmoor
Robert returning from an early morning dive at Hemmoor

In the lake an airplane was emerged at around 24 meters deep, which we had to describe to the surface via communication and had to film using a camera. The last day consisted of a group assignment: we had to build a table from the metal pipes. Each pair got 45 minutes to work on the frame underwater. Once it was done, the table had to be disassembled and brought back to the surface. While lowering and lifting the pipes, we had to make sure these were well secured using the knots we learned.

Photo 8 - Filming the airplane with the camera.
Filming the airplane with the camera

Week 4

The last diving week took place in Lillebælt (Little Belt) near Fredericia, a very popular diving place in Denmark. Here we practiced more rescue drills and rigging, but we also had a new skill to train: underwater carpentry. In 30 minutes we had to make a wooden cross of 40 x 40cm. The last thing we had to do, was a visual inspection of the wall of the pier. This was also really good for practicing our buoyancy. We started at 8m depth where we had to stay for 10 minutes. Every 10 minutes we had to ascent 2m and describe the wall. There were a lot of animals (starfish, crabs, fish, jellyfish) and plants on the wall, so we had a lot to describe.

Photo 9 - The dive site at the Ammoniakhavn, Lillebælt.
The dive site at the Ammoniakhavn, Lillebælt

The last diving day was not in Lillebælt, but in the harbor of Esbjerg. We had the change to record a rudder from an old fishing vessel for the Fiskeri- og Søfarmuseet (Fisheries and Maritime Museum) in Esbjerg, so that they could make a reconstruction of the rudder. The description had to be drawn underwater. This was the most difficult dive we have experienced so far, because there was a very strong wind (9 on the scale of Beaufort), there was quite a strong current and the visibility was only 20-30 centimeters. We managed to get most of the measurements done, but in January we will go back to the harbor and finish the job.

Photo 10 - The old fishing vessel in the harbor of Esbjerg.
The old fishing vessel in the harbor of Esbjerg

The four weeks flew by and we really enjoyed this experience. Exams will take place in week 5. In this week we will have an exam on all the theory and a practical exam. In January and February a few more dive projects will (hopefully) come along, but more on this in the next blog!

Robert de Hoop & Nicole Schoute

Physical work-out and food for thought

During the two months that we have been here, we have been training for the diving course. This is because the diving course requires us to pass a physical fitness test with the following tasks:

  • 1000m surface swim without fins in under 30 minutes
  • 2.5 km run in under 15 minutes
  • 25 m underwater swim without fins (fully submerged)
  • 1 minute breath holding in swimming pool at 2 m depth

Most of these tasks are not that hard, but we had to practice for the 25 meter underwater swim and the 1 minute breath holding. The reason for the fitness test is that professional (scientific) diving requires a high degree of physical and psychological fitness. That is also the reason that we have to pass a diving medical examination. This medical examination consists of a lung x-ray, blood test and a cardio test. The training paid off and we passed the fitness test last week. The medical examination will be in the first week of November.

The track where we did the 2,5 kilometer run test.
The track where we did the 2,5 kilometer run test.

The diving course consists of a theoretical and a practical part. During the course we will also get diving first aid lessons. The price for the course is DKK 13,500 (or +/- 1800 euro). This fee covers all the course material, the diving logbook, diving first aid manual, transport, etc. Alternatively a course fee of DKK 20,400 (or +/- 2750 euro) includes a personalized made to measure (MTM) membrane drysuit and a diving hood. It is also possible to buy an undersuit through school for a reduced price. We bought the drysuit and the undersuit, because we did not have either yet.

The diving course starts at November the 17th. We could actually choose to do the diving course in November or in May. This is because the diving course works best with 8 people at a time and so the class needs to be split up. We chose November, because when we have our diving license there will be opportunities throughout the year to work on different projects. One of these projects is for instance the one in Ribe, that we talked about in the previous blog. We hope to get a lot of diving experience this year!

Apart from the diving course we have off course been following classes at the university. This semester we have 3 classes:

Archaeology and Management

This course focuses on archaeological (underwater) heritage management. The purpose of this course is to give us practical and theoretical tools concerned with the identification, protection, management and preservation of the material remains of human activity in the past (of whatever period and in whichever region of the world) and with the interaction that this involves with all kinds of stakeholders. What we have done during this course for instance is to discuss the differences in laws and legislations in the different countries that we are from. This is to establish an international overview of the conditions for the maritime archaeological work.

Man and Sea

This course gives thorough knowledge of the complex history of human activity by and on the sea. We get a chronological and thematic overview of central aspects of the maritime history of mankind from the Stone Age until now. The course focuses on how mutually related spheres such as fishing, transport, trade and technology have formed human society along and across the seas in constant interaction with the natural environment.

Introduction to Methods in Maritime Archaeology

As you might be able to tell, the other courses are more theoretical courses with a lot of reading and discussions. The methods course is a more practical one, it focuses on the methods and techniques used in maritime archaeological field work. During this course we get a thorough knowledge of the tools that are available to a maritime archaeologist. Significantly, we will have a research-based insight into the key questions to be asked in connection with a maritime archaeological survey in different phases. To pass this course we have to do a group assignment in  which we have to make a 3d-model of a small boat. The small boats are situated in the local fishery museum (Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseet, Esbjerg). Different methods can be used to record the boat, like drawing, photogrammetry or measuring with the Total Station. A combination of these methods can off course also be used.

Work in progress on the computer vision photogrammetry model for one of the small boats
Work in progress on the computer vision photogrammetry model for one of the small boats

Last Friday we went out to the ‘Konserveringscenter Vest’ in Olgod. Our professor for archaeological methods, Jens Auer, was asked to look at and record a stempost of a ship that was found in a fishing net. A stempost is the main foremost (vertical) timber of a wooden boat that is fastened to the end of the keel. It forms the main part of the bow and extends to the deck or even above deck. The stempost is almost 6 meters long and probably has an English origin. When we got there, we first got an interesting tour through the conservation center.

The tour through the conservation center
The tour through the conservation center

Afterwards we recorded the stempost. We made photos and videos in order to make a photogrammetry model of the stempost. We also made sketches and recorded the stempost using a Total Station. During the maritime programme there will be a lot of these practical exercises, which are really nice because they give us hands-on experience!

We are really looking forward to the diving course! When it starts in November we will keep you updated on our progress in this blog.


Robert de Hoop

Nicole Schoute

Studying Abroad: Maritime Archaeology in Denmark

Hello everyone, we’re Robert de Hoop and Nicole Schoute from the Netherlands. In June we got our bachelor’s degree in Archaeology at Saxion University of Applied Sciences (Deventer). During the 4 years that we studied there, we got really interested in maritime archaeology. There is however no integrated academic degree programme for maritime archaeology at any Dutch university. To become a professional maritime archaeologist you have to go abroad to obtain a degree. We decided to do this at the University of Southern Denmark. In the next two years we will keep you updated on the programme here, the diving course that we will be following and about moving to and living in Denmark.

Figure 1
Part of our class during the second introduction day in Ribe

The Maritime Archaeology Programme (MAP) at the University of Southern Denmark is based in Esbjerg, the 5th largest city of Denmark, on the Danish North Sea coast. The programme is internationally oriented and all teaching is conducted in English.  MAP is a two-year master programme that was created with employability in mind. That is why the course is structured around skills which are necessary in the fields of heritage management, consultancy and archaeological contract work. Education is free in Denmark, which is why the maritime archaeology masters course is free of charge for students from European Union/EEA countries. Only students from outside the EU/EEA are charged an annual tuition fee. At the University of Southern Denmark students also have the opportunity to obtain an internationally-recognised commercial SCUBA diving qualification at relatively low cost. As an approved commercial diving school, the masters programme can issue the Danish “SCUBA erhvervsdykker” certificate (equivalent to HSE SCUBA).

Figure 2
The school entrance of the University of Southern Denmark

Before the classes started there were a couple of introduction days. The first introduction day we had a barbeque. During this barbeque we met most of our classmates and some other international students. Our class consists of 15 people and is comprised of a lot of nationalities: American, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Scottish, Canadian and Danish people.

The second introduction day we went with all our classmates to Ribe, which is the oldest town in Denmark. We’ve got some information there about the Archaeology Society Esbjerg (MASE) and about the diving course. MASE is a student run group for the students of the Maritime Archaeology Programme at the University of Southern Denmark. They take on all different kind of projects in their spare time. Every student can join and help out on these projects. We’ll definitely be doing that as well to get more experience during the programme. Right now MASE is doing a survey in the river Ribe Å, which runs through Ribe, where we got to take a look. The point of this survey is to find the harbour construction that should have been here in the Viking age.

Figure 3
The river Ribe Å where the diving survey is taking place

After we visited the site, we headed to the Vikings Museum of Ribe. We got a tour through Ribe and were told all about the history of this old town. After the tour we all headed back to Esbjerg, where we met in the Dive Lab, which is close to the student housing. This is a lab especially for the divers and the dive students. Wood from shipwrecks is preserved here and the drysuits and other technical stuff for diving is been stored here. The day ended with another barbeque, for all the new Maritime Archaeology students.

Figure 4
The tour in Ribe

The next day began with an introduction on the University where we got an explanation about  all things that have to be taken care of when you move to Denmark, like a residence permit and CPR-number (your civil registration number). More information and tips about this aspect will follow in a later blog.

On Tuesday the 1st of September our classes started with an introduction by Thijs Maarleveld, one of our professors. We also met the other professors there and were told all about the programme. This semester we’ll get the following courses:

  • Archaeology and Management
  • Introduction to Methods in Maritime Archaeology
  • Man and Sea

In the next blog we will give an overview of these classes and what can be expected from them. Also we’ll be talking more in depth about the diving course. Until next time!


Robert de Hoop & Nicole Schoute