Marine Archaeology Paper to be Presented at CIFA Conference

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Rysa Little Site. SS085: Bridge Cabin Structure. Copyright: UHI Archaeology Institute

Mark Littlewood, Geomatics Officer Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, will be presenting his paper – Protecting Accessible Marine Tourism Sites: The Case of Scapa Flow – at the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists conference which is being held at Newcastle University on 19th-21st April 2017.

Marks abstract continues….Scapa Flow is one of a number of marine anchorages which possesses a rich palimpsest of twentieth-century shipwrecks. Since the signing of the Armistice on the 11th November 1918, the interned ships of the High Seas Fleet were viewed within the perspective of the military knowledge that they could impart to the Allied powers, a factor that played a key role in the scuttling of the fleet. Following their scuttling the German High Seas Fleet and also the lesser known block ships that protected Scapa Flow during the First and Second World Wars then became a source of direct revenue as they were then subject to partial or full salvage activities.

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Rysa Little Site SS069: Searchlight Control Platform. Copyright: UHI Archaeology Institute.

This paper will examine how attitudes to these wrecks have changed over the years; how the development of marine tourism has both benefited the preservation and investigation of these wrecks, but also poses new challenges. More particularly this paper will compare the palimpsest of Scapa Flow to other similar sites around the world that have undergone salvage activities. Are the wrecks of Scapa Flow perceived differently than other massed wreck sites around the world? Are they seen as more accessible and more well-known and are the levels of protection, both present and proposed, for Scapa Flow necessary or adequate?

The paper will go on to highlight the level of further investigation and dissemination required to protect and make accessible such maritime sites and how the experience protecting wreck sites in Scapa Flow could be applied worldwide.

Thanks to Bob Anderson for underwater photography.


Our Islands, Our Past-Connectivity and Communications

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The ferry to the northern islands of Orkney entering the Bay of Kirkwall.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute conference, ‘Our Islands, Our Past’, is being held in Kirkwall, Orkney from 14th September to 17th September 2017.

Over the next few months, we will explore the exciting and interesting themes of the conference in a series of blog posts. In this blog post we explore the theme of Connectivity and Communications within our island environment.

Living on an island in the North Atlantic in the 21st Century is an experience. It is almost universally accepted by most people living in the UK that they can communicate and connect to anyone else on the planet. The internet, rapid transit systems, motorways and the ever increasing capacity of airliners means that people take these things for granted.

There are no railways on Orkney. The nearest motorway is 200 miles to the south. The rapid transit system is the X1 bus which traverses the length of the Mainland on an almost hourly basis (amazingly there is even a night bus that runs at 2am on a Sunday morning).There are frequent ferries and flights that link us to the mainland of Scotland and beyond. And there is internet.

Even though I have spent most of my life living in an urban or semi-urban environment far to the south, I do not feel unconnected to the world – despite living in South Ronaldsay which is connected by four causeways to the main Orkney island.

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Barrier 4 linking the island of Burray with the island of South Ronaldsay.

But what was life like on South Ronaldsay before the building of the Churchill Barriers? How connected were the people in our islands in our past?

We are lucky in that we can still ask older residents who still remember the days before the Churchill Barriers. It would seem that connectivity between islands and people was by boat. Innumerable piers and jetties facilitated movement between the islands. The relatively sheltered waters of Scapa Flow allowed people, goods, news and ideas to move between the islands.

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Remains of piers in St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay

In the village of St Margaret’s Hope itself, even now, the houses on the shoreline each possess their own pier. And along the shoreline of South Ronaldsay itself, each house seemed to possess its own jetty. So perhaps we can say that the islanders of South Ronaldsay, in particular, did enjoy connectivity through the use of small boats and their individual piers and jetties and this perhaps led to the survival of the island before the barriers were built.

Almost all of these piers and jetties have fallen into disuse as the residents prefer the connectivity offered by the bus, car and the road over the barriers.

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Remains of the old ferry pier connecting South Ronaldsay and Burray

It will not be long before even the function of these strange lines of beach stones stretching out to sea, will be lost and they in themselves will become future archaeology.

Many thanks to Terry and Sandy Cuthbert-Dickinson at Ayre of Cara for their help in making the photograph of Barrier 4 possible.


Paul Sharman and Julie Gibson are working on a paper entitled ‘Prospecting for Orkney’s medieval harbours and landing places’ which they will explore at the conference as part of the wider connectivity and communications theme.

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Diving on the German High Seas Fleet Scrap Sites – Scapa Flow, Orkney

Last Friday marine archaeologists from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and colleagues from SULA Diving completed a dive on the German High Seas Fleet scrap sites.

Under a clearing blue sky, the team sailed out into Scapa Flow, Orkney on board the MV Halton to complete the second phase of the German High Seas Fleet Scrap Sites project.

Concentrating on sites located through side scan sonar survey completed in phase one, the archaeologists recorded and documented extensive remains of the First World War fleet that still lie on the seabed. The conditions underwater were perfect and visibility was good, allowing the divers to take some excellent photographs and video footage while recording and surveying the wreckage left behind following the inter-war salvage efforts on the scuttled German High Seas Fleet.

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Archival research will shed further light on the debris itself and will identify from which ships the wreckage originated.

rpa_0682The salvaging of the German High Seas Fleet in the 1920s-40s raised battleships, battlecruisers and destroyers from the seabed for scrapping at dockyard sites further south such as Rosyth. Today the remains of these ships and their associated salvage lie on the seabed, continuing to tell the story of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, and providing an exciting and interesting heritage resource.

The project is designed to showcase the significant wreckage of the scrap sites of the German High Seas Fleet and was conducted on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland.

All photographs copyright UHI Archaeology Institute and courtesy of Bob Anderson.

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German High Seas Fleet Scrap Site Survey in Scapa Flow

sdrThis weekend, to a wintery backdrop, maritime archaeologists from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and colleagues from SULA Diving continued a high-resolution side scan sonar survey of Scapa Flow.

The project is designed to showcase the significant wreckage of the scrap sites of the German High Seas Fleet and was conducted on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland.

 

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Mast and searchlight platform from an unknown ship

The salvaging of the German High Seas Fleet in the 1920s-40s raised battleships, battlecruisers and destroyers from the seabed scrapping at dockyard sites further south such as Rosyth. Today the remains of these ships and their associated salvage lie on the seabed, continuing to tell the story of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, and providing an exciting and interesting heritage resource.

 

Analysis of the sonar data will be undertaken to identify what is present on the seabed and from which ships. Archival research and diver ground truthing are assisting in this phase of the project.


A University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Side Scan Sonar course is now enrolling for 18th and 19th March. The course is being held in Shetland. More details available from studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

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Two Day NAS GIS Maritime Archaeology Course now enrolling in Orkney.

Learn about the use of GIS in maritime archaeology for the amazing cost of £75.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are now enrolling for a Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Maritime Archaeology (MAC) Course: GIS in Maritime Archaeology at Orkney College on 25th and 26th February 2017

  • Duration: 2 Days
  • Venue: Orkney College, Kirkwall
  • Dates: 25th-26th February 2017
  • Tutors: Sandra Henry, Mark Littlewood
  • Qualification: The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Maritime Archaeology Course (MAC) – QGIS
  • Cost: £75

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is frequently used to create accurate maps with data attached that can be viewed, analysed and published for dissemination.

This two-day introductory course will provide an overview of features in QGIS – a freely available GIS software package commonly used by archaeologists. Although focussing on this particular programme, the skills and procedure students are introduced to can be used in other GIS programmes (such as ArcGIS, gvSIG, GRASS GIS). Comparisons will be made with these other programmes during the course.

During the two-day course, students will be introduced to:

  • Why do we use GIS?
  • How to set up a GIS – map, projections, file-paths, toolboxes and other house-keeping
  • Data sources-where to find accessible maps and other resources
  • How to add these datasets to the GIS
  • Geo-rectifying -providing spatial references for images and maps
  • Other common GIS tools
  • Digitising features through the creation of points, lines and polygons
  • Attach data to these features within an attribute table
  • Interrogation and analysis of spatial data through querying
  • Linking databases
  • How to display data – creating figures for publication and research dissemination

Students will be provided with datasets and will gain experience using the programme through a series of practical exercises.


To reserve a place on this course please contact:

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LX. E-mail: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk  or Tel: +44 (0)1856 569 225

Or download an application form GIS Booking Form and e-mail to studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or send to the address above


Supported by Historic Environment Scotland funding.

NAS Marine Archaeology Course- enrolling now.

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Orkney is one of the most exciting areas in the world for marine archaeology. Scapa Flow and the waters around the islands offer divers the unprecedented opportunity to explore shipwrecks from both world wars.

The University of the Highlands and Islands together with the Nautical Archaeology Society are now enrolling students for a 3-day marine archaeology course: Recorder and Surveyor Day. The course will provide an opportunity to dive on shipwreck sites at the Churchill Barriers in addition to sites in the Bay of Ireland, Stromness.

  • Duration:       3 Days
  • Time:              9.00 am to 5.00/6.30 pm
  • Venue:            Bay of Ireland; Churchill Barriers
  • Dates:             10 -12th February 2017
  • Tutor:           Sandra Henry
  • Qualification: The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Underwater Recorder and Surveyor Day
  • Cost:                £120 (course is subsidised by Historic Environment Scotland)

The cost excludes accommodation and equipment hire.

This three-day course is aimed at anyone interested in maritime archaeology and heritage underwater.

The recorder and surveyor days will entail underwater survey and recording remains of blockship wreck sites at the Churchill Barriers and on a submerged landscape site at the Bay of Ireland near Stromness, Orkney. Participants will directly contribute to the understanding of Orkney past landscapes and ongoing monitoring of the wartime heritage in Scapa Flow.

Participants in the course will:

  • Learn about the factors involved in planning archaeological work and projects
  • Understand how to conduct a 2D survey
  • Learn how to set out and position-fix a grid (intertidal only/site dependant)
  • Understand how to use a planning frame
  • Produce a 2D survey that can be used for further project planning.

There are two NAS E-Learning courses available online (Introduction to Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Archaeology) which are complementary to the practical 3Day course. They do not have to be done first, although it would be helpful if you completed them before you arrived in Orkney. These courses can be accessed here.

To reserve a place please contact:

  • Sandra Henry, The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall, Orkney KW15 1LX.
  • E-mail: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk
  • Tel: 01856 569225

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This course has been subsidised by Historic Environment Scotland.

German High Seas Fleet Scrap Sites to be Surveyed

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Scapa Flow: View from Hoy looking across to Stromness

The wrecks of the First World War German High Seas Fleet that lie on the seabed in Scapa Flow, Orkney are renowned as one of most famous wreck diving sites in the world.

These wreck sites also provide marine archaeologists with an unparalleled insight into the construction of warships from this period.

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have teamed up with  SULA Diving to undertake a Historic Environment Scotland funded project on the salvage sites of the scuttled wrecks of the High Sea Fleet.

The High Seas Fleet was interned at the Royal Navy base Scapa Flow, Orkney at the end ofsites the First World War. Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter, believing the armistice was over, ordered the fleet to be scuttled. This resulted in the sinking of 52 of the 74 interned vessels. After the scuttling, 45 of these vessels were salvaged and various components of the ships’ structures lie on the seabed marking these wreck sites, a cultural heritage resource that is relatively undocumented. Today, the 7 wrecks that were not salvaged constitute one of the most famous wreck diving sites in the world.

The project is led by Sandra Henry (Marine Archaeologist, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) and Kevin Heath (SULA Diving) on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland and aims to identify the locations of the primary scrap sites and associated secondary sites from the salvaging of the German High Seas Fleet.

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The Seydlitz

The secondary scrap sites were created as the upturned hulls of the major vessels of the High Seas fleet were moved to shallower water off Lyness, Scapa Flow. Personal accounts suggest that the salvors would attempt to tow the vessels across the bar at Ryssa Little, sometimes losing superstructure elements in the process. If the upturned hulls did not make it then the salvors would know that the ships were too deep to make it into Rosyth for final scrapping.

One of the aims of this project will be to investigate this assertion and survey the areas around Ryssa Little for these superstructure elements that were lost during these operations.

Recent marine archaeological surveys have collected small amounts of data in regard to the scrap sites indicating that this resource is far more substantial and intriguing than previously believed. The scrap site assemblages include major components of ship structures such as masts, searchlights, plating, steam pinnaces, funnels and so on. Furthermore, these wreck sites, due to their deconstructed nature, are at high-risk of salvage activity.

This project will provide baseline data for long-term monitoring of the sites. The project data and results will be available to the public through the Scapa Flow Wrecks website (http://www.scapaflowwrecks.com), along with various other platforms and exhibitions.


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