Undoubtedly one of the great advantages of studying Maritime Archaeology at the SDU is the possibility to develop and gain more experience from little projects alongside the main study programme. With exercising the practical activities, such as diving, measuring, making drawings underwater and dredging, comes the responsibility of planning and managing diving operations, under supervision of our teachers. But the second attempt to find a clinker built shipwreck in Bagenkop was very special for a few of us. This was the first time, when a group of students was asked to hold the task alone.
The group was four students strong and eager to work. The preparation started a few days before leaving to the island of Langeland. After we were given tasks and problems to solve during the trip, we prepared the equipment. Finally the day had come. We hit the road on Wednesday, after class. Three and a half hours drive through the beautiful landscapes of Jylland and Fyn brought us to Bagenkop right after sunset. We were expected in Maritime Efterskole, where our accommodation had been organised. Very hospitable hosts welcomed us with supper. We finished the day with a little walk to the beach and the marina.
We woke up at dawn. The rising sun forecasted nice weather for diving. After breakfast we drove to Rudkobing to pick up a boat and meet Christian Thomsen from Langeland Museum. We came back to Bagenkop, launched the boat and prepared diving equipment. The shipwreck hunt began. The sea was calm and the visibility perfect. First we decided to circulate a bit in the area checking if we could see anything interesting on the bottom. We finally anchored at the place located with the GPS coordinates, that we were given by Christian. The first diver – Dominic, started circular search around sinker poking seabed with a spike. I was sitting in the boat, fully dressed as a standby, when the sun reminded itself, that it was not really present during the summer. I was impatiently waiting to be next in the water. Firstly, because I wanted to be the one who would find the wreck, secondly to cool down. Finally my turn had come. First the crew had moved the sinker to a new place, where I continued the circular search. I found some wood. Unfortunately none of the pieces were worked and the promising long, cylindrical timbers were just branches. At noon we headed back to the harbour, where Christian joined us. The following dives were not prosperous. We moved from place to place hoping for the best. In the afternoon four cylinders with air were emptied and the clinker built shipwreck remained undiscovered.
However good archaeological research is useless if not published. The same way, if maritime archaeology is not popularized there will be no interest in it. That evening we gave a presentation for the students at Maritime Efterskole. Xenius gave a short lecture on maritime archaeology in general. André presented the field school in Germany that took place this summer and I mentioned a few words about the Norwegian one. Christians task was to explain what had brought us to Bagenkop.
The Baltic Sea was very calm the next day. Its’ surface looked like the surface of a lake, and the water was crystal clear. Again we started the day with cruising around hoping that we could spot anything from the surface. We snorkelled probing the seabed with a long pike. Two short dives succeeded with the relocation of the shipwreck found here in August. We sailed back to the harbour, where we met Jens and Bo, who came to Langeland that morning. We discussed what was next, and we decided to focus on the known shipwreck and to stop looking for the mysterious clinker built ship. The aim of the next dives was to gather most information possible e.g. ship orientation, length and width of the site, position, some construction details, how deep under the sediment were the ship, and so on. We dredged, measured, drew for next hours, emptying the last cylinders. We answered all the questions and prepared the site for the first year students who will come to Bagenkop the next summer for their field school.
The project did not only succeed, because we gained new information about the Bagenkop shipwreck, but also because it showed that the way the Maritime Archaeology Programme is designed, prepares students to conduct projects on their own.