Archive for Other archaeological projects

Bagenkop – Episode Two – The missing clinker

// November 8th, 2011 // No Comments » // Announcements, Other archaeological projects

Diver on the old/ new Bagenkop wreck

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.


Edgar Wróblewski

Finding a shipwreck…

// August 30th, 2011 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme, Other archaeological projects

A towed diver survey - or manfish fishing...

There is a certain thrill that comes with diving on a shipwreck, which conceals a story of its life, daily use, and those frantic last moments onboard the sinking vessel. The imagination often leads the charge, piecing together a storyline of origin, function, and cause, since the insightful details found in artefacts and ship construction are often slow to reveal themselves or finite. Fact finding aside, ultimately it is the unknown that the fuels the “thrill” sensation that one gets from wreck diving and draws one into the deep.

There is another type of thrill or degree of excitement altogether that comes from hunting for an unknown shipwreck, and that was the situation a few of the student’s from SDU’s Maritime Archaeological Program (MAP) were in again this past Wednesday, August 17th. The responsible museum, Øhavsmuseet, requested MAP’s assistance in locating a shipwreck that was reported by a local swimmer, who had supplied the museum with some photos, coordinates taken from a map, and an approximate depth. The blurry images were almost completely indiscernible and if anything misleading. It was hypothesized at first that the photos showed overlapping strakes, hence a clinker vessel, but when found the strakes turned out to be flush with one another or carvel built.

The coordinates posed their own problems considering they were general and not specific, which gave a wide and uncertain search area. The best piece of evidence that we had to go with was the approximate depth of three meters, since the south Danish Sea like its close counterpart the Baltic Sea has almost no tidal fluctuations to confuse that matter. Now and in this type of situation the lack of a tidal range can be seen as a luxury when compared to my home back in Canada on the Pacific coast, where the tidal range is 2.5 to 4 meters at certain times of the year.

The shallow depth also allowed for a variety of search methods that did not solely depend on a dressed diver in the water. The wreck, however, still did not present itself on a golden platter despite the shallow depth and the relatively good visibility from the deck of our boat. The dynamic forces of the sea move innumerable amounts of sand along Denmark’s exposed coastlines uncovering and covering wrecks constantly. This matter of sedimentation was monumental in hampering our efforts due to the time lag of a year between the initial report of the wreck to local archaeological authorities and our boats packed with divers, gear, and departing the harbour of Bagenkop, on the southern tip of Langeland, ready to initiate a search of the shipwreck in question.
The anticipation of going on such a dive mission, for an unknown shipwreck, has its own unique degree of excitement that is present from the moment one is afforded the invitation to take part. From my personal experience, it is a subtle sense of excitement that creeps out of one’s sub-conscious mind into their consciousness at random times during the days leading up to the day of departure. The thought lingering a short while at the forefront of one’s mind, which is then momentarily captivated by the approaching adventure and potential discovery, receding again to let prior thought resume. In sum, my first dive was highly anticipated days in advance.
Sun and blue skies greeted us in Bagenkop’s harbour basin where we launched our boat, and the good weather was only momentary interrupted during the day with a brief rain event and cloudy skies. The sun and shallow water allowed for the most basic search methods to be utilized that proved to be fast and efficient in both locating and investigation suspicious features on the seafloor bottom. A buoy tied to a weight was dropped at the location of the coordinates received from the local swimmer that then marked the center of the search area. A hundred meters radius established the parameters of the search area around the buoy to accommodate the rough coordinates that we had obtained and were working with.
All hands on deck scanned the seafloor bottom from the boat and suspicious features were investigated with nothing more than a dry-suit, fins, and a mask. Formal search patterns were utilized to cover the whole area in question three times, but it turned up nothing more than long straight branches masquerading as frames. Anti-climatically, the search was called off after two and half hours and it started to seem more and more likely that the coastal sedimentation processes had covered over the wreck again. Departing the search area was done with hopeful eyes desperately combing the sea-floor bottom, not ready to give up completely. Suspicious straight contours invited one last burst of excitement and enthusiasm as three divers eagerly jumped ship to investigate, but it turned out to be nothing more the orderly lines of dark fine gravel resting on top of the white sand. Now in the water, Dominic, Jens and I we were in no quick hurry to get back into the boat and call the search fruitless, so we separated to find ourselves some wooden “fruit”. Ironically, it was within these last informal 10-15 minutes of swimming around that turned our day from fruitless to fruitful. Jens keen eye identified the straight edge of a frame that was barely exposed and measured on the surface a meager 30 centimetres in length and extended out of the sand but a few centimetres in a large sandy expansive area. Deceivingly, neither organic growth nor ballast stones marked the frame nor the wreck’s location both of which were assumed would have been good wreck indicators. Alas, we found something and the excitement of the discovery resonated throughout the group as everyone eagerly jockeyed into position to see the elusive ship remains from the surface as Jens was the first to investigate further with diving equipment. The wreck was further exposed using hand wafting to move the sand and then recorded with video, photos, and an off-set drawing.

What we saw: Seemingly part of a carvel built vessel...

In conclusion, the day actually generated more questions than answers. What we can say is that we found part of a carvel boat, made of pine, fastened with trenails and bolts, and a saw was utilized in its construction. Pine construction might point to its origin being Norway, Finland, or Åland, Sweden, but that is nothing more than an educated guess at this time. What we cannot say is if the ship that we found was the one we were looking for? The blurry photos taken a year prior do clearly show construction details of a clinker vessel.

What the finder saw: A clinker built vessel?

It was not uncommon for quite some period of time for shipwrights to employ both methods of construction in their hull design. For example, lapstrake was favoured until the turn of the bilge and then continuing with carvel. Furthermore, clinker vessels were also refurbished or converted to a carvel construction by adding a second layer of flush planking to the hull’s exterior. It may also be the case that there is more than one ship in the same location and that their components have become intermixed. It was and is still common practice to beach derelict boats along the shoreline near harbours in remote, undeveloped areas, and the harbour of Bagenkop is only 2-5 minutes away, has been in use for some time, and the area surrounding it is still vacant farmland abutting the beach. Another interesting story that needs further research is locating the exact entrance for an inland passage route that once existed somewhere along that stretch of beach in front of the wreck just next to Bagenkop, possibly the wreck’s story is in some way connected to this passage route. Without a doubt SDU’s MAP is intrigued by the confusing results of our first dive in Bagenkop, its mysterious shipwreck, and we all eagerly await our next visit.

Xenius Nielsen
2nd year Masters Student- MAP
BA Anthropology
Commercial Diver

How to turn resistance to your advantage

// April 11th, 2011 // No Comments » // Announcements, Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme, Other archaeological projects


Resistivity survey results over google satellite image

We had crawled out of the water and out of our dry suits. This time, armed with corers and high tech field survey equipment, we turned our eyes to a land based site. Our mission was to investigate the Iron Age settlement at Henneby in South western Jutland. A settlement situated by a former lake, a potential place for an old landing or trading site. The orders were clear: None-destructive methods only! That meant that the survey teams were bound to use corers to take soil samples in order to identify the extent of the settlement. The squad was divided into three coring teams. A feeling of psychological unrest had entered most team members heads. The reason being one question; How exactly do you recognize a cultural layer?
On a Tuesday in the middle of march, surprised locals of Henneby could see how a mysterious blue van followed by a black Peugeot pulled in to the village. The vehicles parked a few meters from a trench in the road, opposite to the pottery store. Only five minutes later, some ten MAP students had filled up the trench and made themselves busy drawing the profile of the trench that was currently excavated by archaeologists from Varde Museum. On the floor of the trench could be seen post holes of houses and part of a road. As soon as the drawing task was accomplished (of course only seconds later), the coring teams took their positions in the area and initiated the survey. In all directions, gravel roads, ditches, fields and gardens became subject to soil sampling as the coring teams made their way through the landscape. One objective was to find the boundary of the former lake in the southern part of the area. A GPS detail was established to pin point the samples geographically. Little did we know then that these points would make out the first task on the second IT-course assignment a few weeks later. At the end of an (almost) entire day of coring, another surprise soon revealed itself. Cake! The Danish excavation tradition of bringing cake to archaeological excavations was probably news to all foreign students. The work had proved successful! Not only had we found culture in the soil samples, we had also come across a new kind of Danish excavation culture. The coring survey went on for the next day as well.
One week later, after having analyzed the results of the survey, we had reasonably good idea about the settlements extension, but far from all questions had been answered. Where was the southern boundary of the settlement? Was there anything still hiding beneath the soil by the side of the road going in to Henneby? To deal with these questions at the return to Henneby, a new secret weapon was brought along: A restivit…. A resisit…revistity….A super high tech thingy that measures electrical resistance in the ground! With this tool, constructed and designed by our professor Bo (with a little help from a couple of students), we launched into new surveys of the area. 20 x 20m grids were covered around the area where the beach line of the old lake was believed to have been. The readings taken by the machine (manned by 2-4 personnel) made their way from note book paper into excel sheets and computer software. As the data was processed to an image of blurry greyscale areas, we finally started to make out an outline of what appeared to be a fence structure and perhaps a pit house. It should be noted for the record, that in spite of our professors doubt, we maintain that this could be interpreted as the side of a longship. We are, after all, maritime archaeologists. However, this new survey method had completed the task of finding the southern boundary of the Iron Age settlement. It was the method to utilize for the rest of the project. Already the following week, another resistivity meter (ok I can spell it) had been put together, waiting to be used. For the last time, we took the cars to Henneby for more resistivity surveys, some coring and cake. As a continuation of the settlement boundary was searched for by “la resistance”, the obvious nickname for a anybody dealing with resistivity, a metal detector survey was carried out by two of the students. As they worked their way over the fields numerous finds were discovered. Unfortunately, they were all remains of quite recent happy holidays and boy scout-camps (I.e. tent sticks and more tent sticks).
When the last reading had been taken, the last tape measure rolled up and the last piece of cake eaten, we got back in the cars and left Henneby for the last time ever (unless we go back that is). The results of the last day are still being processed. Soon enough they will be published together with the rest of this project. Until then, we wai…. Work!

Gustav Bergljung

Schleswig harbour diver impressions

// March 24th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Announcements, Other archaeological projects

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

Diving in Schleswig

// March 22nd, 2011 // No Comments » // Announcements, Other archaeological projects

Last week, our freshly qualified divers participated in a one day diving project in Schleswig harbour. The aim was to conduct a survey of the recently dredged seabed and collect loose ship timbers which had been impacted by the dredger for the heritage authority of Schleswig Holstein. The German TV contribution below shows our divers at work. Watch this spot for a report from the divers…

NDR Regional Schleswig Holstein - SDU Diving in Schleswig harbour from Maritime Archaeology Programme on Vimeo.

Recording an orlop deck

// July 15th, 2010 // No Comments » // Fieldwork Projects, Other archaeological projects

Extreme Total stationing on the orlop deck of Vasa

This summer MAP students had the unique opportunity to spend two weeks at the Vasa Museum, working on recording the Vasa’s orlop deck.

After a sleepy drive from Esbjerg to Stockholm, we were met at the museum by Dr. Fred Hocker, the Director of Research. We were to stay on the icebreaker Sankt Erik and the minesweeper M20. Bright and early on the following Monday morning we were divided into two teams to work in the bow and stern sections. Our team -Team Fred- worked in the forward part of the orlop, while the other team -Team Jens- worked in the bow. Both teams were recording the deck with a combination of drawing and total station.

Working on the orlop deck was a challenge, as the low headroom and compartments made using the total station difficult. Each team found themselves sub divided into total station and drawing teams, rotating every day. Three people worked on the total station, and unlike Team Jens we did not have the luxury of a laser pointer! Despite the lack of headroom, lack of handy laser and continuous repositioning of the station, Andrew, Marja and Sara of Team Fred broke the record for the most number of total station points taken in one day. The rest of the team drew the interior of the bow compartment and Amanda got the challenge of recording the cupolas of the quarter galleries.

The remaining four paired up to draw and measure to supplement the digital data, especially as we were conscious that we might not have time to cover all areas with the total station, and some, like sections inside the bow compartment, could not recorded at all other than with drawing and measuring. We all acquired new skills and techniques, especially ducking, sideways walking, early mornings (we are students, after all…) and Swedish total station menus!

We would like the thank Fred Hocker (and Jens) for making the field school possible, and for the privilege of being able to work on the Vasa - even if the bruises on our skulls are not so appreciative! We all got the opportunity to use skills learnt in the programme and learnt new ones. We had a great time in Stockholm, which was both pretty and interesting. The boys definitely want to thank Fred for his hospitality on the night of the football match as well!!!

Sylvia Bates & Maria Lindberg

Viking Sailors

// July 14th, 2010 // No Comments » // Other archaeological projects

Learning to rig the Faroe boats

It was said of old in The Havamal that, ” Wake early if you want another man’s life or land. No lamb for the lazy wolf. No battle’s won in bed. ” It is with this doctrine that the students of the Maritime Archaeology Programme of the University of Southern Denmark met Professor Bo Ejstrud early on campus at Esbjerg to go not only on a trip down the road but also one through time to the Bork Vikingehavn to learn how to row a replica of the clinker built boats that made the vikings so famous.

This is a field excursion which is offered every year to the students at the University of Southern Denmark. Upon arriving at the Vikingehavn the students where given a brief introductory lecture by a true viking, (allbeit one who looked like he had his garments drycleaned after the last battle). The students listened intently as the boat and the methods of propulsion were discussed.

After becoming oriented to port and starboard the students joined the viking and Bo onboard the boat and began the slow and sometimes erratic row out of the harbor to the open sea. After the first kilometer of travel the students picked up a rythm. After about 45 minutes the newly indoctrinated vikings beached their craft on a small island in the harbor, (sadly there were no women or beer to pillage), but we all enjoyed a hearty break and snack before the row back the museum for further instruction on what it meant to be a viking.

Once we had had a second break for a proper lunch the students enjoyed learning how to use the rigging on the small fishing boats of the Faroe Islands. The viking was quick to help us go through and explain everyhting. The students had fun learning about the tack and how to perform the turning of sailing ships. We also gained hands on experience in knot making. This was all in preparation for sailing one of the larger viking boats at a later date. All in all it was a great day with lots of fun and sun and good company.

Jason Lain Lunze

Students at work in Germany, Autumn 2008

// December 5th, 2008 // No Comments » // Other archaeological projects

As students of the essentially practical subject of maritime archaeology and also as commercially qualified divers, the opportunity to work on a professional project came as a welcome prospect.

As a result of the planned Nord Stream gas pipeline running through the Baltic Sea, transporting gas from Russia to Germany, an archaeological survey of the Bay of Greifswald, where the pipeline comes to shore, was conducted. Along with this area of the coast and a large area of the Baltic Sea, the pipeline project also concerns a large area on land within Germany.

The archaeological investigations were carried out by Bureau for Culture and Care and Preservation of Ancient Monuments and Artefacts (LKD M-V) in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the objects under examination were anomalies from a series of side scan surveys that were conducted during the earlier stages of pipeline planning.

From October to December 2008 students of the Maritime Archaeology Program at SDU Esbjerg too the chance to experience at first hand the nature of the work in which they were training for. The work was performed from the Danish boat “Havgus” and the international archaeological team was comprised of divers from Germany, Ireland, and Norway. By night the boat was docked in a small village called Lauderback on the scenic island of Rügen.

The work was assigned to be carried out every day for 12 days with a 4 day break continued with a further 12 days work and so on, but the weather in the Baltic is rather unpredictable in November/December, so diving was not possible everyday. The team numbered 6-7 divers on the boat, and for every dive there was a diver, one rescue standby diver and one tender. The searches were on completed at various depths, ranging from 3 to 20 meters.

The objective of the diving survey was to assess whether the anomalies were of an archaeological nature. In the case of a site being recognised as being archaeologically significant they were to be reported for further archaeological work. During the diver survey sites were described, recorded and, in certain cases, further suggestions were made for archaeological investigations and actions.

During the project there were typically three main site types most found, natural features, single archaeological items and major archaeological sites. An example of natural features would be turf banks or tree trunks. Turf banks were measured, described and investigated for specific features, whereas tree trunks were sampled and tested for dendrochronological analysis.

Single archaeological items, for example anchors, were assessed by divers for preliminary documentation and such items were to be recovered sooner or later.

Major archaeological sites had to be assessed for further archaeological documentation and rescue. An example of such a site was from a ship barrier measuring 980m long and located at the shallow mouth of the Bay of Greifswald dating from 1512 and the Great Northern War. The Swedish Navy sank 20 ships to create a barrier to safeguard their control of the area. The pipeline will run trough the middle of the barrier and so one of the ships will require excavation. Prior to this however a survey was carried out which included measuring and detailed recording sketches, photographic and video documentation of the ship remains. The plan for the wreck is to excavate it in the spring of 2009 and redeposit it in a freshwater lake for further preservation.

The students of the Maritime Archaeology Program at SDU wish to sincerely thank the Bureau for Culture and Care and Preservation of Ancient Monuments and Artefacts and particularly Mike Belasus for giving us the opportunity to work on a professional archaeological project of such high standards and believe the their experiences will aid to further their careers in the area of maritime archaeology.

Delia Ní Chíobháin & Liv Gardsjord Lofthus
Maritime Archaeology SDU

Projects-diving in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

// November 14th, 2008 // No Comments » // Other archaeological projects

In October of 2008 students of the Maritime Archaeology SDU took part in a project with the Bureau for Culture and Care and Preservation of Ancient Monuments and Artifacts (LKD M-V), which is the relevant authority in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The project is undertaken in relationship with the planned realization of the Nord Stream pipe line Project through the Baltic. It includes the research of a series of wrecks.
To date the one of the wrecks has been surveyed. The wrecks form a 980-metre defensive barrier on the seaward sill of the Bay of Greifswald dating from 1512 during the Great Northern War made by the Swedish navy to protect their holding in that area. In the past 5 weeks we have surveyed, drawn and excavated the wreck as part of project that will involve the removal of the ship from the sea bed.
This Project is one in which we the students get the opportunity to work in the field to highest level and come to understand the finer points of art of archaeology and challenges that it holds for all who choose to study it.

Paul Montgomery
Student of Maritime Archaeology at SDU