Tagarchief: Maritime Archaeologist

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!

Goddag!

Robert de Hoop & Nicole Schoute

And then it was the last day…

We have spent the couple of days approximately 20 hours underwater, with each time effectively 25 minutes dive time at 24 metres. We have covered a large area and managed to map the site reasonably well. We go back with measurements, film and photo footages, drawings and observations. Now we have to put this all together to create a good site plan and to answer our scientific questions. We have it all and will thus be able to come up with a recommendation for the future, and perhaps a future excavation proposal, depending on the further analysis of the results. It’s all very exciting!

One thing is sure, we had a great time working together with the different groups. I would like to thank all of them, not only for the diving but also for all the discussions we had, the exchange of knowledge and all the fun. In the end, a beautiful project like this should be enjoyed, and we did with a smile even while making days from 5 o’clock to 23h.

So thank you, the team in Ramsgate:  Mark James, Alex Hildred, Dan Pascoe, Johan Opdebeeck, Pete Magowan, Mark Hobbs, Graham Scott, Paolo Croce, Thijs Coenen and Kester Keighley

The lovely Dan (Poppy) and Ben of our ship The Predator (project savers)

Alison James, Angela Middleton and Mark Dunkley from Historic England

Peter Holt for being our telephone hotline for Side Recorder

Peter Hamer for equipment maintenance and delivery

Pidge the cook

Kai Dieho the camera man

Willemien van de Langemheen and Debbie Hickman for the wonderful job they did to communicate the project to the outside world and to maintain contact with the press

And last but by no means least: Ken Welling, the licensee of the Rooswijk shipwreck, for sharing the enormous amount of information he gathered about the site with us, as Rex Cowan did, thank you both.

It was a huge success and let’s do it again!

Martijn Manders

Photo above: The team! From left to right: Martijn Manders, Thijs Coenen, Ben, Dan (Poppy), Peter Magowan, Mark Hobbs, Paolo Croce, Kai Dieho, Johan Opdebeeck, Mark James, Alison James, Alex Hildred, Dan Pascoe, Kester Keighley (missing: Graham Scott who took the photo!)

 

 

The Rooswijk 1740, an update

Today we give you a short update about the work that the joint Dutch-English team of archaeologists is doing on the Rooswijk shipwreck.

The Rooswijk was a Dutch East Indian (VOC) ship that sank on an outbound journey on the Goodwin Sands in the UK, one day after it left the Texel Roads. All hands were lost and the wreck is now lying at approximately 24 metres depth.

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The dive team that worked on the site in 2005 gathered a  lot of information on site and lifted – amongst others – silver and gold coins and silver ingots. The information gathered at that time has not been published yet, but also lacks sufficient context with the ship construction.

Historic England designated the wreck site in 2007 under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/protected-wreck-sites/wreck/rooswijk).

Current information has shown that the site is under threat of erosion of the seabed. The Goodwin Sands is a very dynamic area with huge sandbanks moving constantly.  This also became evident by comparing sonar recordings of 2015 and July 2016.

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The team wants to investigate how much the site is threatened, but also where this extra information to connect objects to the wreck can be found. The current research could lead to an extensive excavation which may possibly be conducted in the next coming years.

Before such an undertaking can be executed more information should be gathered about the condition of wood, iron and other material, about the best place to start an excavation and how this research could be best executed.

The team consists of archaeologists from the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), Historic England, the former dive team working on the site in 2005, Wessex Archaeology (the contractor for Historic England) and MSDS Marine, the current dive contractor.  We are working on the dive support vessel Predator from Essex.

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We are now 5 days on our way. The sun is shining constantly and the first days the weather was very good on the site. The visibility as well (approx. 2 metres). However, wind has picked up from the wrong direction now and we have lost a few tides on Thursday and Friday.

The site has however been found, canons have been identified and we are now working on mapping the Rooswijk shipwreck in order to bring back as much information as possible to start planning method, cost and people needed for the much bigger research that we may execute again with a large international team. Other options will also be taken into account  like (temporary) in situ preservation.  This all depends on what we will find.

The diving will finish on the 15th of September. The project already generated a lot of publicity and general interest in the Netherlands as well as in the UK.

More about the Rooswijk project:

Historic England (press release)

Cultural Heritage Agency (in Dutch) (persbericht)

Follow the project on Twitter using #Rooswijk1740

Continuing the Van Bosse research on Tarama: agreeing on future activities

The past few days were devoted to exploring the possibilities to learn more about the wreck Van Bosse which sank in 1857 off the coast of Tarama. By conducting several interviews with residents, who have been narrated stories about the wreck by their ancestors, but also with information from local books and archives we are able to develop scenarios about how the ship must have sunk after being leak bumped on the reef. This again helps us with the search for the wreck itself.

We have found objects, like an anchor, a bottle of gin, a huge chest and shards of major Chinese jars that may also have been on board the ship. But parts of the ship itself are still not found. Dr. Ikeda and Mr. Sasaki will focus their attention on this in November. Using a metal detector they will search the impact site, where most objects are found and everything in between will be swum and explored.

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The beach of Tarama at the spot where the Van Bosse ship presumably sank

At the same time they will continue to conduct interviews with the people of Tarama who know the stories about the wreck. An information project with the elementary school will be launched. In November, the children on the island can meet archaeologists and interview them for the project. In the Netherlands and Germany we will do further research into the archives.

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Meeting with the head of the island

The Van Bosse project is alive! It’s interesting and amazing to see how excited everyone is. The administration of the island would like to do more with the story and the wreck site. It would indeed give the particularly beautiful diving at Tarama an additional cultural and historical dimension. Then it becomes even more worthwhile to travel over here and visit this island paradise, voted one of the most beautiful municipalities of Japan.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist / Head Maritime Programme RCE

Photo at the top: the highest point of the island, about 30 m, with a 15 / 16th century lighthouse

 

Searching underwater for the Van Bosse ship (1857)

A team of underwater archaeologists consisting of two members of the Japanese National Committee for Research and the Examination of Underwater Cultural Heritage Dr. Ikeda and Dr. Kimura, as well as mr. Sasaki from the National Museum of Kyushu and mr. Manders from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has arrived on Tarama island. This is one of the most Southwestern Islands of the Japanese archipelago, actually very close to Taiwan.

In November a Japanese team of professional archaeologists and sports divers associated with the only dive school on the island – Jaws 2 – will map and assess the site of the Van Bosse wreck and make it accessible for the sports divers who spend their holidays on the island. The visit now in August is mainly initiated as a start of the project about the Van Bosse shipwreck which includes also educational elements and archival research in several countries. The 22nd of August the team was welcomed by the department of education of the island that effectively is responsible for the management of this and other archaeological sites. They have assured us that all help in this is welcome. After this meeting we went to the dive shop to sort out our gears and then settled down in our condo which we share together.

The evening was used to discuss the possibilities to find elements of the wrecksite underwater and to pinpoint the exact place of wreckage, which is still not completely known. Dr. Kaneda wrote in 2001 an article ‘Historical Investigation concerning the Dutch Ship Van Bosse Wrecked Off the coast of the Tarama Islet’ and this article has also been discussed between the archaeologists in order to find out what the chances of finding wreckage are and what kind of research should be further conducted.

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The morning on the 23rd we were up early to go diving from the beach to the place where the ship according to accounts must have wrecked and where a fisherman has salvaged many pottery over the years. Indeed by walking on the beach we collected many pottery shards of different kinds. These are however mainly Chinese.

The coastal waters around the island Tarama are very shallow and abruptly become much deeper with here and there dangerous rocks ending just a few meters under the sea surface. For somebody who is not acquainted with these waters, it is a dangerous place. The underwater world, just at the edge of shallow and deep is however stunningly beautiful!

The second dive today was in deeper waters with the dive shop Jaws 2 and their ship. At 28 meters of depth, again on the edge of where the water gets very shallow and  near the place we had been diving in the morning, a considerable amount of pottery shards from large Chinese storage jars can be seen lying on the seabed. Were these used at the Van Bosse ship? It came from China…

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Also an enormous iron crate was discovered. Definitely something has happened here. The area however is large and the research in November should reveal the size of the site and maybe even also the location of impact: where the ship has hit the reef.

Tonight we will talk with an old fisherman. Let’s see if he can help us out.  Tomorrow, the 24th we are invited by the head of the island, similar to a mayor and in the afternoon we have a round up with the advisory board of the heritage of Tarama. Then up to Fukuoka for further talks at the Kyushu National Museum, our partner in shared heritage management.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Japanese – Dutch research on shipwreck Van Bosse about to begin

In August, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is joining forces with the Kyushu National Museum to conduct an exploratory research on the Dutch shipwreck Van Bosse. The research focuses on exploring opportunities for mapping the Van Bosse and providing accessibility to the wreck for local sports divers. The project is a continuation of existing cooperation with Japan in the field of maritime archeology within the framework of Dutch Shared Cultural Heritage policy. The site of this Dutch wreck is already protected locally. The ship was built in Germany, but registered by the Dutch owner in Rotterdam.

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The ship Van Bosse was originally built in 1854 in Germany. The 665t big three master barque, which was employed by the Bonke & Co. Trading in Rotterdam was on its way from Shanghai to Singapore when it sank during a storm in 1857 at Tarama island, Okinawa prefecture. Luckily all 27 people on board survived, but before they could return to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, people stayed several months in Okinawa and integrated into the local community.

The story of the sinking of the Van Bosse and the interaction of the people of Tarama with the crew of the ship are recorded in detail. It gives us a good insight into the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the relationship that it had with foreign powers at a time when the self-isolationism of Japan had just been lifted. It is striking that until few years ago nobody knew exactly what ship it was, although the story of the sinking of the ship was well known. We know it now, thanks to extensive research in Dutch archives.

The Van Bosse shipwreck is registered as a Village Historic Site (オ ラ ン ダ 船 遭難 の 地: Oranda-sen Sonan no Chi ~ Site of Dutch ship wreck). It lies on a reef at depths ranging from a few meters to about 30 meters. Over the years, an iron anchor was lifted, which is on display in a local museum, and several other finds such as a complete Lucas Bols gin bottle and some salvaged porcelain shards.

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However, there’s more to be found. Despite the protected status of the ship an archeological significance assessment of the wreck site has not yet been made. This will take place this autumn and is having its official start now in August, with a first joint visit to the site. Ultimately this will lead to a management plan for the site in which all interests should be taken into account. The Van Bosse wreck is already dived regularly by sport divers. A local dive shop has voluntarily undertaken protection of the site. The local authorities are working on an active promotion. The aim is to use the wreck to attract more recreational divers to the island. But what measures are necessary to facilitate an intensive visit of sports divers? How, for example, can the remains underwater be protected while still visible and accessible to visitors? And there is need for more information about the site to allow divers to fully experience the wreck and its history when they are underwater.

In August Dr. Ikeda from the University of Okinawa, Dr. Jun Kimura of the Tokai University in Tokyo (with students), Randy Sasaki of the Kyushu National Museum and Martijn Manders (RCE)  will officially start the project. In November, the Japanese partners will conduct follow-up research historical research in the Netherlands and Germany will be coordinated by the RCE.

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Late August the World Archaeological Congress (WAC http://wac8.org/) will be held in Kyoto, Japan. As part of the Japanese – Dutch cooperation Martijn Manders and Yoshihi Akashi will represent the Fukuoka prefecture and chair the session ‘Global Perspectives on Underwater Cultural Heritage Management’. The presentations will elaborate on universal values of the underwater cultural heritage management, what needs to be improved in management and the way countries can cooperate in the protection of underwater cultural heritage. This fits exactly with the way the research on the Van Bosse shipwreck is implemented: a collaboration between various parties in the country where the ship sank, Japan, and the country of origin, the Netherlands.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Nederlanders overzee in Brazilië: met een dikke scheepshuid op reis

Brazilië is tussen 1630 en 1654 voor een deel bezet geweest door Nederland. Mensen, goederen en wapens moesten worden ingevoerd met schepen vanuit Europa en de Westkust van Afrika om de suikerplantages aan de gang te houden en te beschermen tegen indringers. De lange tocht door warme tropische wateren was niet goed voor de huid van de houten zeilschepen.
Begroeiing zorgde voor een vertraging in de reis maar erger nog was de aantasting van de planken door de paalworm (Teredo navalis). Binnen zeer korte tijd kon stevig eikenhout verpulverd worden door dit schelpdiertje dat lange tunnels door het hout eet en zich erin nestelt. Columbus had hier einde 15de eeuw al grote problemen mee en vele zeelieden op weg naar (Zuid-) Amerika na hem leden hierdoor schipbreuk. Geen prettig vooruitzicht, zeker niet wanneer de schepen lange tijd in de tropen waren. Dat was het geval met de schepen van de Westindische Compagnie en de Admiraliteit (Marine) die maanden of zelfs jaren in Brazilië moesten verblijven. Uiteindelijk werd hier een oplossing voor gevonden, geen goedkope, maar het zorgde wel voor een aanzienlijke vergroting van de kans om heelhuids terug te komen.

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Een (extra) dikke houten huid
We weten al langer dat voor de schepen van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) een extra opofferingslaag van dun en goedkoop naaldhout werd bevestigd op de belangrijke eikenhouten huidlaag van het schip. Deze zogeheten dubbeling werd met duizenden spijkers met grote koppen bevestigd. De roestvorming van deze spijkers en een extra laag van koeienhaar tussen de planken zorgden voor een aanzienlijke vertraging van de aantasting van de scheepshuid. Na iedere reis werd die opofferingslaag verwijderd en wanneer nodig vervangen voor een nieuwe. Deze bescherming was echter te weinig voor de schepen die lange tijd in de tropen moesten verblijven. Dit werd gecompenseerd door de toevoeging van een volledige extra huid van eikenhout. Althans dat denken we nu. In de afgelopen jaren hebben archeologen verschillende Nederlandse scheepswrakken aangetroffen met die extra dikke en driedubbele huid: twee eiken huidlagen en een naaldhouten dubbeling. Allemaal schepen die lang in de tropen moesten verblijven.

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De Utrecht
Een mooi en eerste voorbeeld uit de ‘West’ is het oorlogsschip ‘de Utrecht’ dat in 1648 zonk in de allerheiligenbaai bij Salvador de Bahia in Brazilië. Een opgraving van dit schip zou veel nieuwe informatie kunnen opleveren omdat nog vrij veel van de houten romp bewaard is gebleven. Zo zouden we erachter kunnen komen of die extra laag er al tijdens de nieuwbouw van een schip op werd gezet en dat schepen dus specifiek voor de tropen gemaakt werden, of dat die extra huidlaag er pas op een later moment werd opgezet vlak voor de uitvaart van een schip. Dit is weer interessante informatie omdat deze gegevens ons iets vertellen over planning, economie en geopolitiek.

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Nederlandse schepen dus die goed voorbereid op reis gingen. En dan lagen er nog allerlei risico’s op de loer. Een groot probleem was wel de malaria. Nog altijd is dit een ziekte – overgebracht door muggen – die je niet graag oploopt, net als het zika virus waar nu zoveel om te doen is. Dan kan het materiaal wel goed zijn, maar als de mensen zelf niets meer kunnen, dan houdt alles op.

Martijn Manders, maritiem archeoloog en hoofd Maritiem Programma RCE

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!

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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.

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The sub-bottom profiler in action, the data that is received can be seen on the monitor.
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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.

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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

Cocos Keeling islands: Searching for ivory as indicator to wrecks

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The Wreck Check team were conscious that the 7-day stay on Cocos Keeling Islands was a narrow window of survey opportunity, but luckily we were able to go out on the water everyday. North Keeling, the top survey priority, is 28 km due north from the main atoll and the gap between each island is subject to deep ocean swells. Operating out of the six-meter-long Park’s boat Pulu Bill the journey was bouncy at times as we punched into deep ocean swells.

We surveyed a lot of parts of the island with the magnetometer again and besides that we visited sites of known wrecks to document them using photogrammetry and by doing corrosion measurements. One of the highlights of this week was diving on the SMS Emden, see the previous blog.

Monday was the last day of fieldwork on Cocos Island and for this season. We have completed the survey around Turks Reef and Horsburgh Island. Except for our first day on the water, over the week on Cocos Island we have contended with 10-15 knot SE winds and swell 1-2 meters. This has definitely limited our opportunities to survey and dive in our target areas. To exacerbate the difficulties, targets in the 6 – 8 meter depth contour around the atoll are usually just out of the surf zone making safe access and exit enormously problematic in large swell. Besides Turks Reef and Horsburg Island we were able to survey the south and parts of the west side of West Island, the north and west side of Direction Island. These were the most important parts of the island to survey as ships would have passed here because of the shipping route at that time.

The Cocos-Keeling Islands.

As always we have worked hard to achieve what could be done within the parameters of weather. Work inside the lagoon is possible and several sites have been dived and surveyed when weather has driven us back into the lagoon. We dived a SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vehicle) that was found last year, a working barge, an unidentified wreck that we think is the Robert Portner. and we also snorkeled at the Phaeton wreck site. At all these sites we took pictures and video for photogrammetry and where possible with the current and swell we also did corrosion measurements.

While information collected from the Emden continues to be worked up our primary quest to search for the Fortuyn has been heavily impacted. Progress was made on following up on a report to the Queensland Museum in the 1980’s of a discovery of an elephant tusk at the southern end of the runway on West Island. This is relevant because another VoC shipwreck the Aagtekerke is reported as carrying elephant tusks. The team were able to walk the beach area and surveyed directly off shore with the magnetometer.

On the last day we were are all packing, backing up data and getting ready to fly home. Still, in the time left in the morning Graeme and Andy managed to squeeze in talking to four classes ranging from Kindergarten to grades 3-4 on Home Island. Some great questions and lots of good engagement from the students.

Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.
Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.

While the next steps for the team are to process collected data over the coming months from the magnetometer surveys, the photogrammetry and the corrosion measurements, we would now like to recognize the wonderful support of our partner, sponsors and supporters who enabled this fieldwork to be undertaken. Our research partner the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia, Silent World Foundation, Parks Australia and the Australian Government Department of the Environment. We would also like to recognize the excellent contribution to this years fieldwork by Shinatria Adhityatama (ARKENAS, Indonesia) and Robert de Hoop (University of Southern Denmark). Without the significant support of the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture their attendance would not have been possible. Special thanks to Rob Muller, Ishmael MacRae and Trish Flores of Parks Australia for the assistance.

The SMS Emden

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On Tuesday we left Christmas Island and went to the Cocos-Keeling Islands. The Cocos-Keeling Islands are a group of 27 coral islands that are located in the Indian Ocean approximately 2700 km north-west of Perth. The main islands form a typical horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounded by a coral reef. Each island has rough coral beaches to seaward and sandy beaches on the lagoon side. The islands are low lying and most are thickly covered with coconut palms. Wildlife on the islands consists mainly of seabirds. Just like on Christmas Island, land crabs are common on all islands and the surrounding reefs support a diverse range of corals, fish and other marine organisms.

Surveying again!
Surveying again!

After the team unpacked and setup base at ‘The Castle’, we started doing a magnetometer survey again. After that we snorkeled the Phaeton wreck. The Phaeton was built at Sunderland (UK) in 1868 as a composite ship (timber planking over iron frames) and was 46 meter long. It wrecked in Cocos in 1889 while carrying a cargo of copra from Cocos Island back to Europe. At about half past five on the morning of the 25 September the Phaeton was discovered to be on fire. The fire force pump was in the area of the fire and could not be reached safely and the vessel could not be saved. To avoid blocking the entrance to the lagoon, the Phaeton was run aground in its present position, broken up and salvage. We hope to make a 3D photogrammetry model of the remains of the Phaeton using photos and video we made.

North Keeling and the SMS Emden

Besides looking for the Fortuyn and the Aagtekerke one of our objectives here is to properly record the SMS Emden. This German light cruiser was at her home port of Tsing-Tau in China at the outbreak of World War 1. She was on her way on the 6th of August with orders to her captain Von Muller to destroy as much allied ships as possible. Her rampage in the Indian Ocean was brief but spectacular as she managed to sink 15 merchant ships, a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer in less than two months!


Early on the morning of November 9th the Emden appeared off the Cocos-Keeling Islands, and sent a landing party of three officers and forty-two men ashore to dismantle the cable station that was there. While they were at work the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney arrived. Although the Emden’s gunnery was excellent and her opening salvo scored a direct hit on the Sydney, she was no real match for the larger ship. Within two hours, she was out of action, and hopelessly disabled. It was then about noon, and the Sydney left her to chase a captured merchantman which had been acting as an escort for the Emden. On her return, about 4.00 pm, she found the Emden still flying her colors, but unable to move. The Sydney signaled to her to surrender, but received no answer, and finally fired several further rounds at her. Only then did von Muller strike his flag. By this time the Emden was blazing furiously amidships, and in an attempt to save as many of his crew as possible he drove her on to the reef fringing the south coast of North keeling.

North Keeling is located approximately 27 km from the main group of islands and is thus quite remote and not a lot of people go there. It was really special to be able to dive there and see the remains of the vessel, because although it has been partly salvaged there is still a lot left of it as you can see on the photos we took. One of our team members even went on the island with Triss from Parks Australia, to document the remains of the vessel on land! Just as with the Phaeton we hope to make a nice 3D photogrammetry model of the ship to get a good overview of the site. We also documented what still remains of the vessel and did a corrosion measurement.

In the following days we will continue our survey for the Fortuyn and the Aagtekerke. We will keep you updated as good as we can with the limited internet access we have here..