Schleswig harbour diver impressions 1

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Two years of dreaming, seven months of master studies, five weeks of commercial diver training, and everything came to fruition dockside in the Schleswig harbour, Germany on Wednesday 16, 2011. The day started out as one of the most beautiful mornings of the year. Driving south with SDU’s archaeological dive team it really felt like spring had finally sprung in Denmark. Little did I know that the day was soon going to turn into one of the major highlights of my academic career―you know library research is thrilling―but to actually be in the field and discover a part of history, now that is something that will resonate with me forever.
Our arrival in Schleswig harbour was met with great enthusiasm. The German television station NDR was on scene with reporters, a traditional film crew, and their special dive team camera crew. Pleasantries where exchange, a short briefing was given and we began to prepare for our first morning dive. Edgar and I suited up, Gustav and Veronique acted as tenders, and Jens served as our dive supervisor. It was approximately 12:00 when I slipped into the 3.5 meters of water surrounding Schleswig harbour, whereby, visibility was comparable to a night dive without a flashlight. The visibility was zero. NDR’s special dive team camera crew were rendered useless and aborted the dive immediately. However, despite the lack of sight―and a little beginner’s luck―I made find, after find, after find, which turned out to all be pieces of medieval ships that had been broken apart due to dredging activities and were suspected to be in the area. I was instantly addicted―must- find- more― and when the air in my tank ran out I eagerly asked if my empty tank could be exchanged for a full one. Jens accommodated my newly found addiction and I was back in the water in minutes attempting to satisfy my new finds fix. Another tank emptied, a large knee found from the ships internal support structure, and we were off to lunch.
After Lunch we relocated further down the dock and it was Veronique and Gustav’s turn to exercise their beginners luck in the blackout conditions of Schleswig harbour. Veronique was quick to produce results and to the surprise of everyone dockside she had found a keel of a clinker built vessel!! The keel still had waterproofing material loosely attached to it where the garboard strake should have abutted the keel, which created even more excitement among the landlocked maritime archaeologists. It was suspected that the garboard strake had only recently become disarticulated from the keel and potentially parts of the vessel were still in situ underwater!! An amazing reality considering that the harbour had just undergone extensive dredging activities. Veronique was directed to return to the spot she had found the keel to see if she should could located anything else, a task easier said than done when there is nothing to orientate one to underwater. Veronique was on it though, and sooner than later we were inspecting a garboard plank on the dock with clinker nails, a scarf joint, and some simple decorative work. The clock struck 17:00 and we had to wrap up our gear and head back to Denmark.
The day’s experience left everyone feeling great about their chosen carrier paths, and it put into perspective all the hard work that brought us to this point. Reflecting back I think the biggest lesson I took away from that day was that there might have been a couple of people who made the actually finds, but it took a group of committed and competent people to get a person into position to be able to make those finds.
Nice work everyone on making the day a total success!!!

Xenius Nielsen

Photos by Sila Sokulu

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