My Writings. My Thoughts.

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 17: All that wood

// August 20th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Today was the last full dive day of our field school. Therefore, we had a full schedule with many different tasks we needed to finish. A first priority was to lift some exemplary timbers in order to draw them in full detail on land. After drawing, dendro samples were taken from these timbers to gain information regarding their date and provenance. Also, recording of the bow section was started, so the site plan shows an overview of the full extent of the site. Afterwards, different divers filled in many of the gaps missing in the site plan between the stern and bow. Although not all gaps could be filled in, the recorded information gives a good impression of the wreck we are dealing with.
foto 1

Taken by: Rik Lettany

Other small tasks included photographing some timbers we needed for the database, documenting the mast step and measuring the angle of the keel post. In the meanwhile, at the Hellasgarden, other parts of the database were finely tuned. It was busy, but we can look back on a productive day where we completed a lot of our goals for this field school. Tomorrow it will be the final stretch, and a short dive is scheduled for cleaning up the site and recording some last bits and pieces. That will be the last job before Team Älgö will return back to its base Esbjerg. See you Soon!

foto 2

Taken by: Rik Lettany

Written by: Rik Lettany

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 16: It’s got to be perfect! ♫

// August 19th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

After a day in Stockholm, during which we all had a tour in Vasa museum and some of us still worked with the offset drawings of the main pump house, we had yet another day at site. We had to abandon our prepared plan already early in the morning and therefore the dives were mostly planned by “playing sudoku with names” directly at the site. The main reason for the change was that we wanted 4 people to stay at the office to get an overview of what we have and what is still to be done. During the day, a digital database of all recordings (sketches, offset drawings, photos) was made, the site plan was complemented and sketches were digitized.

The day before, Thijs was singing “Perfect” by Fairground Attraction. With the song still stuck in our heads, we understood that it is impossible to follow its suggestion today. The weather gods were generous with strong winds and occasional showers, giving us very little sun. Temperature both on the surface and underwater was low, therefore the dive time was reduced to about 100 minutes. The dives were shorter and the divers tended to come up at the same time which made takeovers slow.

We also noted that:
1) When things are used for a long time, they may break at some point. Today it was THE DAY for one of our pressure gauges and for the plug of the standby comms set.
2) When people work continuously for 3 weeks, they may get very tired. Out of sleep deprivation, the site manager of the day did not do the checks correctly and therefore the stand by diver at the time was sitting with the first stage not connected to the cylinders. We must be careful at all times!

Nevertheless, we had enough time to crack jokes and Christian was entertaining the surface crew with underwater whistling. After filling the cylinders, we came back for “breakfast for dinner” and a somewhat longer debriefing in order to use our remaining 2 days more effectively.

(The Song)

Written by: Liisa Randmaa

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 14: Our Site Plan is looking Wreck-tangular

// August 16th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

While half the team went to Birka, the other half started in Fisksatra to fill cylinders. We arrived on site a little later than expected, around 8:45am, and as its owners were still on holiday, we assembled onto the larger choice of piers for a day of offset drawing.

With six dives in total, the day finished full circle with Selina as the first diver in and last diver out. On both dives she cleaned and drew timbers to the offset plan, though spent most time on the former since parts of the wreck are still fairly covered from view.

In the middle of the day our professor Thijs, who was diving un-tethered, gave the tenders on the pier a bit of a shock when his buoy disappeared and popped up a few meters elsewhere. Apparently he was making one of his infamous u-turns, but underwater!

Around this time, Agustin was making sketches to scale, and reported to surface:

Agustin – “Agustin to surface.”
Tasha – “Yes, Agustin, this is surface”
Agustin – ” Something big… and red… just messed up my visibility.”

Something big and red... Taken by: Agustin Ortiz

Something big and red… Taken by: Agustin Ortiz

Rik gave tags to timbers missing numbers and removed tags from those with multiple numbers. He also untangled the orientation line we established in the first week and beat his own bottom time record.

Ultimate multi-tasking; supervising, tending, and resting

Ultimate multi-tasking; supervising, tending, and resting. Taken by Liisa Randmaa

Above water, Liisa and Tasha went through pulling their rain jackets on and off, trying to escape the erratic pattern of sunshine and rain showers.

Our Site Plan so far

Our Site Plan so far. Taken by Liisa Randmaa

And as you can see, the site plan is really coming along!


Written by: Tasha Andersen

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 12: Mingling work and sleep

// August 16th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

While a group of four was again working at Vasa, others had a productive day on site with 8 dives. Most of these were spent on drawing offset for the site plan and sketching timbers, but the last was used to lay a parallel baseline 2m north of the existing baseline. As it appears, the wreck extends far beyond our expectations, therefore the reference system should be updated accordingly.


The maritime archaeologists’ working area at Vasa Museum. Photo by: Heike Müller

Today’s divers were independent, 100% reliable and I can only be thankful that they shared their knowledge with their non-diver site manager. Same applies to the surface crew, whose members were efficient while getting divers ready to dive and patient while passing time with holding the rope. In fact, people have become very good at finding different solutions for taking a comfortable nap in any weather. The fact that we have time to fall asleep on site only shows that we are quite effective working as a group by now. We have also discovered, that working with 6-7 people on site is far more practical than with 12, therefore I believe, that some changes for the next week (some free days!?) will be made.


Sleeping – in stand by mode. Photo by: Liisa Randmaa


Sleeping – rainy freetime mode. Photo by: Liisa Randmaa

The day ended in a bit of a surprising way, as we somehow managed to cancel all dinner plans (including shopping for 2 days) and two of us had to make a half an hour drive back to Stockholm. Nevertheless, a late but delicious meal was prepared by Heike and Rik, which we all enjoyed before drifting to bed.

Written by: Liisa Randmaa

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 11, Lets Draw Timbers!

// August 14th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

It was a quiet day on site with only 4 divers available. Work continued on the offset drawing and sketching the timbers with all divers having long dives, and all but 1 having two dives. We had just shy of 700 mins of dive time, which was a good result for a relaxed day on site. There was a lot of thesis discussion, good natured debates, and story time with Dana as he regaled us with the story of Ankor Wat’s lost wall paintings from the latest edition of antiquity. Thesis conversations

Thijs catching up on news from the archaeological world

We made good progress on the plan and the sketches, while others continued working at the Vasa museum with Fred Hocker. But of course, with the end in sight, we are beginning to feel to pressure. More drawing and sketching will continue in the following days.

Updating our record

Selina Ali

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 10: Keel and what knot

// August 13th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

We kept on drawing and sketching today.  What was really exciting was the fact that Christian was able to locate the keel of our ship. After Tasha transcribed all drawings from today and included them in the “bigger picture,” it seems to assume the shape more and more.


Looking at today’s drawing. Taken by: Heike Müller


It is a boat! Taken by: Heike Müller

Meanwhile during tendering, Selina and Tasha discovered Rik as a knot tying prodigy and we all had a try with different knots.


Tying the knot. Have a try! Taken by: Heike Müller

Another very positive thing today: Thijs finally fixed his car so that we can have a safe trip back to Esbjerg next Friday!


Written by: Heike Muller

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 9: Offset, Guest Presentation and Visit to Birka

// August 13th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Yet an other day of drawing and sketching. Since half of the team is visiting Birka today, the remaining half had a nice relaxed day on our new location to dive from. This week we can dive from a large jetty owned by some local people which has plenty of room for all our dive gear and the boat. It is also closer to the wreck site, so tending will be easier as well. Some dives are now untethered to get things started earlier in the mornings, and to give people more freedom in and around the wreck to shoot videos, draw and swim around. In the evening the Japanese delegation which had visited our site the day before came to have dinner with us. They also gave a nice presentation on the  Takashima Underwater Site, which gave us some insight to the maritime archaeology in Japan.

Written by: Morrison van den Linden

A very happy diver. Photo by: Heike Müller

A very happy diver. Photo by: Heike Müller


The off-site team members had an eventful visit Sweden’s first town of the Viking Age. The day began with a short walking tour led by Sjohistoriska curator and maritime archaeologist Jim Hansson; he showed us remnants of the past captured in the landscape such as the old fortress walls, King’s Entrance, grave mounds, ship stone graves, inland piers, and some stone jetties which continue to be used today by local farmers.

Soon after, we were shown some finds from their underwater sit which they are presently excavating. There was an impressive collection of worked wood, unshaped amber, an assumed torch (wood, textile and tar), a whet stone, and other organic finds. Sjohistoriska has carried out several excavations of the cultural layer in Birka’s shallow shores over the last few years, bringing up impressive artefacts with every dive. In just 20 minutes, while we spoke with one of their divers near the diving platform, we witnessed a single diver  return to surface 3 times with new artefacts!

After a long wander through the burial grounds, we visited the museum of Birka which impressed us as much as the finds collection. The way finds are displayed for the public is particularly and commendably archaeology-based. For example, some wooden toggles lay in a clear water-filled tank and guests may shine flashlights through the glass, perhaps encouraged to feel the way a diver might. Another section presented different cultural layers in a stratigraphic display, with reference to corresponding finds in small cases. On one wall hangs a map of the island’s geophysical data, depicting the mass of grave mounds and settlement features. Furthermore, there is a lovely balance of displays;  indoor and outdoor, interactive and passive, entertaining and educational.

The Sjohistoriska excavation team are open to and encourage both questions and visitor participation. For more information, see their website:

Written by: Tasha Andersen


ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 8: Tending in the rain

// August 12th, 2014 // No Comments » // Uncategorized


Rainy overview: Taken by: Rik Lettany.

Today our MAP-team had two main goals. The first goal was to continue recording the wreck by means of offset-drawing and sketching in order to have a good basis on which we can build further in the next few days. The secondgoal -requested by Fred Hocker, Director of Research at the Vasa Museum- was to record certain parts of the construction of the Vasa. For this reason our team was split up into two groups: one team of 7 head to Älgö and 4 others head to the museum. Thijs, in the meanwhile, took care of a delegation of Japanese visitors who wanted to visit our project.

With the advantage of being a smaller group, team Älgö had the first diver in the water at 09:35. And while the first divers were busy drawing the wreck under water, the sky turned grey and soon the first raindrops started falling from the sky. Not much later the tenders on land got almost as wet as the divers down. A small shelter was improvised by Morrison so that he could get changed into his dry suit. Rain, wind, cold temperatures, … the classic archaeological experience! Luckily things didn’t get worse and all dives could be finished. After six (near) 2-hour dives we called it a day, and post-processing of the recorded timbers could start.


Morrison enjoying the only dry spot of the site. Taken by: Heike Müller


Post processing. Taken by: Rik Lettany

Meanwhile at Vasa Museum; we enjoyed warm mugs of good coffee and free internet. It was a bit cold working in the main exhibition area, but we were enjoying the work so much, we just did not care. Our task is to help the reassessment of timbers that are supposed to make up the trunk for the main pump. It has been disassembled and we are now recording them in detail to enable a digital reconstruction. For the most part we will use simple off-set measurements on paper, but a FARO-arm is also available. The first two teams, as we work in pairs, were Tasha & Björn and Agustin & Dana. Both teams got as far as recording two faces of the assigned stanchions. The work continues Wednesday. It is a great experience working where we can interact with visitors of the museum; they ask questions, take photos and observe our work. One always has to remind himself not to just end up chatting, but continue with the work.

Written by: Rik Lettany

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 7: Pier Pressure

// August 11th, 2014 // No Comments » // 2014 Fieldschool Älgo, Fieldwork Projects


Yesterday, 9.08.2014 was a long day so I decided to start a few minutes later so that the team would be better rested. The main objective of the day was to draw and sketch the areas of the wreck between the Stern-post and what we assigned as the work line (the line that leads from the diving pier to the wreck).

On site the weather was sunny and warm with no current and warm waters as well. Throughout the day the temperature was going to be rising to around 24 degrees Celsius, so everyone had to watch each other and stay hydrated.

"Who is down there?"

“Who is down there?” Taken by Tasha Andersen

I found it very effective to have the standby diver go to the site by car and have them checked before the first set of divers arrive on site. By doing so, the team was able to get the first set of divers in the water before 10:00  a.m.

The base line was used to guide the drawing-divers for their offset drawings, while the sketch-divers’ goals were to describe the timbers in the area they were assigned.

The day started off great and the divers were getting long dives until we were informed that the pier we were using for the main divers had to be empty because the owners were going to have a party at 16:00. This meant that there would be a lot of boat traffic. Pressure to move piers also lead to a bit of confusion on task for the divers, but nonetheless sketches and drawings were produced. On the other hand the longer dives allowed other team members to get long enough breaks in between dives and work more productively and positively throughout the day.

Tine Drawing. Taken by Heike Müller

Tine Drawing. Taken by Heike Müller

I had to shorten the dive time for the third set of divers and leave out the fourth  set for the day. It worked out at the end since leaving early would mean that the main drawing can be worked on back at home base for the rest of the day and we would be able to get an overview of the Älgöwreck. At the end of the dive day a total of six dives were done with approximately 507 minutes of dive time. Overall, I would say that it was a productive day and exciting for some of the divers that were doing certain activities underwater for the first time.

Supervising at its Best. Taken by Liisa Randmaa

Supervising at its Best. Taken by Liisa Randmaa

Written By: Agustin Ortiz JR

ÄlgöWreck Fieldschool Day 6: Tag your planks!

// August 10th, 2014 // No Comments » // 2014 Fieldschool Älgo

After a regular start from Hellasgården (including a morning swim, porridge and all the perks of a 5:50 am wake-up) we arrived at the marina in Fiskesätra only to find its gates closed. After a short wait our patience ran out and to get things underway, we decided to use the public slipway to load the boat and sail/drive off towards the site.


Our first task of the day was to tag the timbers east of our workline, focusing on the main framing elements and the upright standing member we now call the „sternpost”. Meanwhile the cleaning continued. The tagging went very well and we got over 50 cow tags in place. There was only a 20 minute delay in our schedule until the summer heat got to us and finally we managed 7 dives by the afternoon.


Our second task for the day was to start sketching and taking measurements and our last divers did just that by recording the „keelson” (Timber 482) and some other frames. There was too little time left for this job and visibility was much reduced in the late hours, but it gave a good starting point for the following day.


Improving safety

Improving safety. Taken by Tasha Andersen

Last but not least, there was a job to be done above water too. As it is summertime and the living is easy, countless small watercraft race past the site every day. Some of them also tow wakeboarders or tubes behind them and most of them sail at a high speed. The drivers are generally used to the area and drive their boats routinely, paying little attention to the shore. We try and signal them by marking the site with multiple dive (‘A’) flags, shouting and waving, but the skippers either do not pay attention or recognise our signals too late or just wave back. We have now placed three extra buoys around the site and can dive feeling much safer.


We also recorded some footage with our GoPro camera that we are breaking down into individual frames to create a photo mosaic. To get better results from the recording, we deployed one diver un-tethered and this proved to be the right decision.

At the end of the day logistics got the better of us, because being the supervisor, one of the boat drivers and van drivers does complicate organisation. This resulted in our shopping team having to navigate by phone GPS to find the shop (in fairness they did not find THE shop, but found A shop) and three of us having to fill cylinders and lift the compressor back into the belly of the Great White Shark (aka the IVECO van). However, this is no place to complain as we also got the chance to try our hands at cricket with some local Pakistani players (we did not take it).

At the end of a long day came a delightful dinner; our tortillas and tacos were filled up and our report forms filled in. Another successful day for the SDU-MAP team with much more to look forward to.


Written by: Daniel Dalicsek

Preparing nails

Preparing nails. Taken by Tasha Andersen

A "heated" discussion

A “heated” discussion. Taken by Liisa Randmaa