Categorie archief: UNESCO course St Eustatius 2014

Flying out

After a month of training, after many laughs, conversations, diving, analysing data, writing, presenting, eating, sleeping and even karaoke together all the students and trainers have left St. Eustatius (or Statia). All except for our two Statian participants Pardis and Reese.

The moment I flew out, an empty feeling came over me. What a characters! Each and every one of them. An unlikely group of people, now known colleagues and hopefully partners in future projects. Will they? I have good hopes. Including the Foundation Course in Jamaica more than 30 people have done the training and with the Spanish training in Campeche, Mexico it is even more!

I truly hope they will find each other. There are so many great possibilities! We will definitely support those new cooperations: the trainers, the UNESCO and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE).

Underwater archaeology and cultural heritage management organised and executed from within the region. Maybe by doing so, more emphasis will be laying on trying to unfold the mysteries of indigenous seafaring in the Caribbean. At this point, still, after so many years of (mainly foreign) research in the area hardly any archaeological evidences of boats or other crafts of indigenous origin have been found. They must be somewhere!

A challenge therefore! But of course other sites like submerged prehistoric sites and e.g. colonist ships from France, England, Spain and the Netherlands are important as well. The Caribbean has become a melting pot of different cultures.  All the sites are part of the complex past that has made the region what it is today. So most important to do now, is to set up responsible management for the underwater cultural heritage in the different states in the region. This takes time, especially time, and some convincing of the need to do so. Starting small and extending to more if possible. A place to report sites, a database to register, laws to protect. Interviews with the fishermen, the sportsdivers, surveys on the beach… these are all possible even with a small budget. Even the cultural significance assessments underwater as taught at the course will not cost a lot more money than the diving itself.

I would say: go for it!

My last words are that of ‘thank you‘.

Thank you participants: Jose Miguel, Cyndy, Cimberly, Jane, Joost, Jimmy, Johan, Reece, Pardis, Darwin, Guno, Camille, Diana, Fernando, Maickel, Tara.

Thank you trainers: Chris, Hans, Ruud, Tatiana and Ryan

Thank you all that have made this training possible: Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), Leiden University, NEXUS 1492 project, UNESCO, ICUCH/ICOMOS, SECAR, Scubaqua Dive Center, the people of St Eustatius and all these other individuals that have made the month an extremely pleasant one, a month hard to forget.

A goodbye to you all

Martijn Manders
Trainer and course coordinator

South Africa hanging out in the Caribbean…

My name is Tara Van Niekerk and I’m all the way from the beautiful Republic of South Africa. It truly has been a privilege to participate in the UNESCO Foundation Course taking place on the sleepy island of St. Eustatius in the Dutch Caribbean. Being from what seems to be the odd country out, it has been amazing to be welcomed so completely into the world of all these wonderful people and learn about archaeology in the Caribbean.

The SECAR building. Our base during the month of training
The SECAR building. Our base during the month of training

You may ask why would someone from South Africa be participating in a course with a focus on Caribbean archaeology, but it is pleasantly surprising to realise how similar the two regions are. South Africa is considered to be one of the priority countries for mutual heritage by the Netherlands as it was once, like many of the islands in the Caribbean, a former Dutch colony during the 16th to late 17th centuries. There are many cultural heritage sites both on land and underwater that are considered to be shared heritage with the Netherlands. As a Heritage officer working for the South African Heritage Resources Agency, it is my job to help manage and promote this diverse maritime and underwater cultural heritage.

From left to right: Dominican Rupublic, South Africa and Cuba
From left to right: Dominican Rupublic, South Africa and Cuba

South Africa has a rich maritime history with close to 3000 underwater cultural heritage sites, with quite a few of these being shipwrecks of Dutch nationality. Sites older than 60 years are currently protected by the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 but there is still room for improvement in protecting our UCH sites. Recently approval was given in Parliament for the accession of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage which has been an important step in the right direction for the professionals in the Maritime Archaeology field and the protection of our UCH.

Instructions before the diving
Instructions before the diving
Excersise in measuring underwater
Excersise in measuring underwater

The UNESCO course has therefore been a valuable source toward the work that we do and has allowed me to learn more about the different aspects of heritage resource management around the world. Through topical discussions such as the UNESCO convention, site significance assessment and management, data management we have been pushed to think about the different needs within our own country. It has been an intensive few weeks with both class room work and field work but I can say that I will go away from it having built on my previous experience, refreshing some of my skills and having learnt many new skills. I am truly grateful to our instructors Martijn and Chris for this opportunity and would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of the course.

Tara Van Niekerk
Heritage Officer Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit South African Heritage Resources Agency SAHRA

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Great opportunity for Haiti to explore it’s underwater cultural heritage!

Haiti is well known as the First Black Republic in the World and the second country that has been independent in the American continent. Back to the time before its independence, a lot of things happened. It was the place where the indigenous people, named Taino, lived, there were pirate conflicts, conflicts between Spanish and French ships and so on. The conflicts often took place in the many bays of the Pearl of the Islands (the ancient name of Haiti) and also near Il-a-vache and Ile de la Tortue.

This longtime maritime history must have left traces in the waters surrounding Haiti. However, our country hasn’t yet made an inventory and explored its Underwater Cultural Heritage, even though it is such an important part of its identity! Fortunately in November 2009 Haiti signed up the 2001 UNESCO convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

This year for the second UNESCO Foundation Course in the Caribbean, Haiti sent two participants: Syndy Alte, undergraduate student in Art history and archaeology and Camille Louis, a master in Cultural Resources: Archaeology/conservation. We believe that this Underwater Course is a great opportunity for Haiti. Through this capacity building programme the both of us can set up a management plan for underwater cultural heritage and hopefully also a unit that will be in charge to take care of and promote the underwater cultural heritage.


During this month of intensive training, we learned a lot. Our schedule was very interesting and quite busy. It took two weeks of intensive theoretical training, learning about the UNESCO convention, project design, different survey methods, fieldwork practice, we have learned about the component of ships, identify ceramics, site significance, and how to write a site management plan.

Haiti04 Haiti05

In week three we did our fieldwork. Through diving on the historical structures in Oranje Bay we put the significance assessment, recording underwater and the writing of the Management Plan into practice. An additional assignment was to come up with a storyboard about the site, aimed at the visitors of the local historical museum in Oranjestad, where the boards will be installed.

The group of students consists of people from different countries. It was a great experience for each of us to work with people from such a diversity of cultures.


There are many things to do in Haiti in terms of underwater culture heritage. It would be a great benefit for our country if more research will be done, if there will be more opportunity for jobs and of course a sustainable plan for the management of the underwater cultural heritage will be developed. The good news is: all our friends of the course are willing to come in Haiti in order to work hand in hand with us to help us fulfill this dream. And they are more than welcome!

Syndy Alte, undergraduate student in Art history and archaeology
Camille Louis,  master in Cultural Resources: Archaeology/conservation

Belize, a country thriving on its natural and cultural richness

It is innate to wonder about where we come from, our origins and what inspired our ancestors. It is innate to wander also, to explore so as to learn the past and thereby plan for the future.

You Beta Belize It
It’s been a privilege attending the UNESCO Foundation Course for Underwater Cultural Heritage. I’m even more thrilled to have represented my country, my little Belize, whose growth is slow but steady, even as it relates to underwater cultural heritage. There hasn’t been much research in the discipline in Belize, but the potential is there. We are a nation with a rich culture and history!

A diverse group of individuals met on this tiny island of St. Eustatius. Strong characters with a profound passion for conservation: managers, biologists, archaeologists – a plethora of disciplines all under one roof who share a common goal.

The Crew

The dynamics of the past month, from theory to practical, set a platform on how to better manage underwater cultural heritage in our home countries with both government and public participation, especially the latter.

Before the start of the course I pondered what attending the course would mean to me. Underwater cultural heritage for a marine biologist? Of course the “underwater” appealed to me, but I hadn’t realized that the two disciplines are integral in the grand scheme of underwater cultural heritage management. Especially for a country like Belize where our economy thrives on the natural environment and history.

Belize is a diverse mixing pot of people. Sure, we have our challenges (who doesn’t?), but we are a proud people who cherish and love our home. That being said, as a proud Belizean, what am I taking back from this course? Knowledge and a network of wisdom. Tools which can and will be used to assist in the sustainable management of our cultural heritage.


Why should we protect our underwater cultural heritage? Simple. It is our heritage – be it on land or underwater – it provides a sense of belonging; belonging to a place our ancestors built, a place we continue to mould, a place for future generations to learn from and to appreciate.

I’ve learned plenty this past month. Not only from the course trainers but also from my fellow comrades. It’s interesting to hear the tales from other countries. From countries that have ratified the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and the laws subsequent to the ratification but also, and especially, from those that haven’t and the actions they are currently undertaking in order to protect their underwater cultural heritage. Belize has not ratified (not that we don’t want to – as I type this colleagues back home work diligently to update and amend our legislation). However, we do have legislation in place to protect underwater cultural heritage (though signing on the 2001 Convention would lead to better laws and more stringent penalties).

The Quill

Though cultures differ (as do their values and ethics, their significance) we all came together for a successful month of thought provoking lectures and discussions, a means of planning ahead for the future. Meeting so many people from all over the globe, connecting with people that share that passion and all who aspire to great things has been inspirational. Chris, Martijn, Ryan, Ruud, Hans, Tatiana, much thanks for imparting your wisdom to us!

As the end of the course nears, we prepare to leave Statia with a sense of accomplishment, gratitude to each other, new friendships and fond memories.

A big thank you to the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and the Institute of Archaeology of Belize for your support in this venture…

Thank you everyone for being truly amazing!


Jané I. Salazar

Executive Assistant – Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) – Belize Chapter
Executive Assistant – International Forestry Students’ Association-University of Belize (IFSA-UB)
Certified Rescue/Scientific Diver – University of Belize Dive Control Board 
1. Marine Sciences & Biology | University of Belize 2010
B.Sc Natural Resources Management | University of Belize 2016

Combining nature and cultural heritage management in a Bonaire based private company

They are wild, conscious and in for challenging work. This is probably how Fernando and Jimmy got into the UNESCO Foundation Course on Underwater Cultural Heritage. With their recently founded company in mind, this course was a fantastic opportunity.


Their love for the Caribbean islands and vision for sustainable resources management inspired the creation of Wild Conscience NV. Underwater Cultural Heritage management was a subject both men were familiar with, but not experts on and thus it was a great and exciting addition to their resume.

The pier_Panorama1_small_crop

The course is locally facilitated by SECAR and the students reside in the two (boys and girls separate) dorm rooms. Their spacious living room and kitchen functions as a study, lecture room, archaeological exhibition room, rec-room, theater and conference room. Evenings are spend working, socializing and many interesting topics are discussed with such a multi cultural group. Several participants have already mentioned interesting projects in their home country and are currently discussing future partnership. Fernando and Jimmy would love to be a partner in future underwater cultural heritage projects.

After two weeks of intensive theoretical training and a fieldwork week the course is getting to an end. The group that is divided in three teams are finishing their management plans, storyboards and mapping process. It has been an interesting and exciting three weeks, with great participants and energy. The camaraderie is high and this many people with different professions is bound to create an interesting end product. This course is bound to give a great stimulus to Caribbean underwater cultural heritage management. The Wild Conscience team is excited about the work and potential and look forward to future projects in this field.

Luckily the course is not over yet and all of us look forward to the final days.

Fernando Simal & Jimmy van Rijn

Finding the way up in Dominican Republic’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Management

My name is Diana Pena Bastalla, archaeologist from the Dominican Republic. I am currently participating in the UNESCO Foundation Course in St. Eustatius.  I am very excited to be part of this group of wonderful individuals with a strong passion to protect our underwater cultural heritage. 


I come from the heart of the Caribbean, ‘La Hispaniola’, which is now divided in two countries: the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  My island is full of tremendous energy, diverse population, and vibrant cultures. For as long I can remember, I have always wanted to be an archaeologist. At some point during my adolescence, I remember talking to my parents about it. They hesitated as soon as I mentioned the topic because archaeology was not considered as a career in Dominican Republic. Today after many years of studies I hold the Master’s Degree in Archaeological Studies from Glasgow University in Scotland and I have returned to my country to work and contribute to my Dominican society.


Around the coasts of the Dominican Republic, there is a vast amount of shipwrecks that perished since the beginning of the contact with the Europeans in the 15thcentury in their endless endeavours to find gold and other valuable resources from the new world – ‘America’. These shipwrecks are the silent witnesses of tragedies and stories of unfulfilled lives that were cut short by storms, wars, privateers and pirate attacks.  If the underwater cultural heritage could speak thousands of stories would be told.

The Dominican Republic government has an Underwater Archaeology Department (Oficina de Patrimonio Subacuático). Sadly it is understaffed:  the lack of underwater archaeologists, funding, and technology threatens the existence of our underwater cultural heritage. As a solution to canalize funding, the Dominican government granted contracts to ‘Treasure Hunters’ companies from North America.

For decades these companies have used uncontrolled exploitation, indiscriminate and unsuitable research methods such as excavating with explosives, intense use of punches, strong suckers, prop-wash and trawling. As marine salvors they are entitled to 50% of the material culture (objects) found during the excavations and used for commercial purposes abroad. Recently the majority of these contracts were cancelled but some companies still with the pretext of salvaging our underwater cultural heritage keep conducting excavations in our waters and exploiting our underwater cultural resources. Nevertheless, there is still hope that this situation will get better. It is – in this light – important for our country to ratify the UNESCO 2001 CONVENTION on protection of the underwater cultural heritage.


During this course we have learned about Data Management, Underwater Cultural Heritage, Underwater Archaeological Techniques, Project designs, Legal protection of Underwater Cultural heritage, and Geographical Information Systems.  At the moment, we have been divided into groups and each group has been assigned a project in which we have to put into context everything we have learned throughout the first weeks of training.  My team is in charge of surveying the ruins of the ‘Old Pier’ located in Orange Bay, Lower Town, St. Eustatius.  In its original form, Oude Pier or Old Pier was used as a landing for commercial activities and for passengers of larger ships to disembark.


Participating in the UNESCO Foundation Course has given me the opportunity to learn more about the importance of underwater cultural Heritage. As delegates of our countries the aim is to create a strong network that would enable us to manage and protect the underwater cultural heritage of our Caribbean waters.

The Foundation Course has inspired me to further my studies in underwater archaeology and to re-create the initiative in my country of the importance of ratifying the UNESCO CONVENTION to preserve and protect our underwater cultural heritage.


Diana Pena Bastalla

The potential of Venezuela’s Underwater Cultural Heritage

When Christopher Columbus landed in Venezuela in 1498 he introduced Europe to one of the most impressive places he had ever seen. He and his crew called it “Tierra de Gracia,” or “Land of Grace”, because it made them think of paradise……Nothing closer to the truth…. Since today there are still places in the Venezuelan geography where paradise remains frozen in time.

Venezuela 1
Lost and pristine Beach in the Venezuelan central coast

Soon after these  first  discoveries the Europeans turned their heads to the New World, mostly because of the richness already reported by many conquerors and explorers, a fact which triggered a huge race among the most important European nations of that time to explore and develop these newly discovered territories.

Today, five hundred years after, the remains of these enterprises can be seen not only in the Venezuela’s maritime landscape, represented by many fortresses and old towns along the coast, but also by hundreds of shipwrecks, some of which still are in place waiting to be studied by the present and next generations of underwater archaeologists, some of whom are already being trained thanks to the aid an support of institutions such as the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), the University of Leiden, the Nautical Archaeological Society (NAS), the UNESCO, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

My interest in shipwrecks started in 1998 when I had the opportunity to arrange and participate in the initial survey of the French Fleet of the American Islands, wrecked in the Archipelago of Aves in 1678. After performing an initial research in the French Maritime archives and other historical resources I got very impressed not only by the fact that I probably was in front of one the most catastrophic and larger shipwrecks in the whole Caribbean, but that also I was among the few fortunate people in the world that had the opportunity to explore and research this extraordinary shipwreck at first hand. A fact which not only impressed me the most but also made me think of the importance of studying underwater archaeology in order to comprehend and protect this site.

Huge French Anchor at Las Aves shipwreck
Huge French Anchor at Las Aves shipwreck

Today this shipwreck, among many others also reported by fishermen and enthusiasts like me, along the Venezuelan coast, are of a great opportunity not only to know more about the Caribbean an the world history, but also of great relevance to awaken the importance and potential of the Venezuela’s underwater cultural heritage. Not only to the general public opinion, but also as a way to develop at the same time the necessary projects and programs which might help to study, protect and preserve these archaeological sites for future generations, with the hope that they might evolve through time into educational and museum projects, which may contribute to enrich not only Venezuela’s but also the world’s underwater heritage as well.

As a participant in the UNESCO Foundation Course for Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in the Caribbean being held at St. Eustatius, I wish to say thanks to Martijn Manders, Chris Underwood, Tatiana Villegas, Ruud Stelten, Reese Cook, Ryan Espersen, Hans van Tilburg and the professors Marlena and Andrzej Antczak for the opportunity of being part of this magnificent course, which eventually will be of great support for all the Venezuelan future underwater projects. Also I would like to thank my colleague students from Cuba, Bonaire, Curazao, Belize, Suriname, Republica Dominicana, The Netherlands, Haiti and South Africa for their kind friendship and support along the course.

Venezuela 3

Jose Miguel Perez Gomez

Fundacion Manoa

Undergraduate Student / School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester




Curaçao is also in the UNESCO Foundation Course

My name is Cimberly Symister (21) and I represent the island of Curaçao in this UNESCO Foundation Course in Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in the Caribbean. By just participating in this course, it will have many benefits for the island of Curaçao.

20141119_120430As a little girl I always wanted to become an archaeologist and I didn’t want to change it for any other profession. In 2009 I started doing volunteer work at the National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management (NAAM). After graduating from a school of higher general secondary education I got as a present of my parents a vacation trip to the Dominican Republic. There I did a single scuba dive and it changed my whole life. I was a little confused. An archaeologist or a scuba dive?

Both became my passion day after day. But after doing some research I have finally found a profession where I can practice both of my passions. Since then I wanted to become a Maritime Archaeologist. When I got back from that vacation trip, the first thing I did was follow the Scuba Diving courses. Now I am a PADI Divemaster. Meanwhile I was studying at Social Work and Sciences at the University of Curaçao and I graduated this year.


Curaçao is one of the Caribbean islands with a lot of maritime history, especially in the busy harbour of Willemstad. Willemstad is the capital and is the place for commerce and trade since the 17th century. We also have a wreck of a steamship called the SS Mediator, which sank in our harbour in 1884.


During this course I have learned a lot. The first two weeks we got more like theory about project design, data management, different survey techniques and much more. This is already the third week and it is the Diving Project Week. The students are divided in three groups, that each take up a part of the site that we are working on. We have to come up with a management plan for the 18th century building construction and the 19th century pier in the lower town of Oranjestad. Besides that we also have to make the people of St.Eustatius aware of the beautiful history the island has.


By doing this course I have confirmed that this is what I want to be: a Maritime Archaeologist. I’m looking forward to the future. Next year I want to study Archeaology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and later on I want to go on and study Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark. My biggest dream is to come back to my lovely island and support my island in the field of underwater cultural heritage.

Cimberly Symister


Opportunities for cultural heritage management in Suriname

 As you already know, two students from Suriname are also participating in the UNESCO Foundation Course for Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in the Caribbean to protect their cultural heritage. Both participants (Guno Phagu and Rambharosa Dharwiendre) are students from the Anton de Kom University of Suriname. We study History with a minor in Archaeology at the faculty of humanities.

Map of Suriname

In Suriname there is not a lot done in the field of underwater cultural heritage management, so this training was the golden opportunity for us. Suriname has a lot of underwater cultural heritage that has to be managed. Some of them are: the Goslar, a 2nd world war ship that is in the Suriname river. The Leusden, which is an 18th century slave ship that sunk in the mouth Marowijne river. We also have the Prof. van Blommestein lake, where 27 villages drowned because of the building of the Afobakka dam for hydroelectricity in 1958. We know about these sites based on historical documents, but underwater research has not been done yet.

The Goslar, 2nd world war ship

After completing the Foundation course, we are planning to start with the research in the Prof. van Blommestein lake to investigate the opportunities this area has in terms of cultural heritage resources. The visibility is good in the lake and we are eager to know more about the structures of the villages. All were maroon (runaway slaves) communities living there from the colonial period. There are rumors that there must also be a church in one of the villages with a bell. We are eager to look for the evidence ourselves.

This course will help us a lot in doing all this, we learn here how to recognize, record and preserve artefacts underwater. During this training we learn a lot from not only the trainers but also our fellow students, some of which are already working in the field of (underwater) cultural heritage management. We learn about the heritage and heritage management in different Caribbean countries too. We have built up a team and become friends with each other. We expect to work together and help each other in the future to manage our underwater cultural heritage


When doing projects in Suriname we will surely need the help of our friends, because in Suriname we don’t have all the experienced people. Maybe they can also help us with finding funds for the projects. And we will also help them if needed. In this regard we are very happy to know that one of our trainers is from the RCE in the Netherlands. Suriname being one of the priority countries for Mutual Heritage we have already started to discuss the possibilities of setting up joined projects. Will be continued!

Guno Phagu
Rambharosa Dharwiendre
Anton de Kom University, Suriname

Theory and lively discussions on underwater heritage topics

The St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR) is situated in a big house with large rooms. The story goes that the building was designed in centimeters, but built in inches instead. This past mistake, makes the center perfectly capable to host a bunch of students in bunk beds for a UNESCO course on Underwater Cultural Heritage. The incredibly rich colonial history of St. Eustatius is of course also a welcome addition.


Sixteen students from Haiti, Bonaire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Curaçao, St Eustatius, Saba, Belize, Venezuela, Surinam, South Africa and the Netherlands form a diverse group. Their diverse professional backgrounds make for lively discussions on topics like the significance of underwater heritage, the way to go about in a reef and what should be done with artefacts. The first weeks are filled with 8-hour days of theory, where everybody slowly sinks into the comfortable couches at SECAR.

Visiting sugarcane plantation ‘fair play’, guided by Reese, director of SECAR

Luckily the occasional excursion, a little volleyball, a strenuous work-out regime, lead by our Venezuelan ‘Jean-Claude van Damme’, and the promise of a full week of archaeological diving around the sunken warehouses of St. Eustatius keep everybody quite lively.

Johan Schaeffer is one of the students participating in the course. On Saba, he is the General Manager of SABARC, the Saba Archaeological Center. SABARC has three main tasks: establishing a cultural heritage center, coordinating community and youth projects and managing archaeological activities on Saba.