Archive for Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

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

A thanks for the thank you from Esbjerg International School

// October 29th, 2010 // No Comments » // Announcements, Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Thank You letters from EIS

Two weeks ago, a group of students from Esbjerg International School visited the Maritime Archaeology Programme at the University of Southern Denmark to learn about maritime archaeology, diving - and last but not least the tough life of University students. A group of MAP students prepared a short programme including presentations and a dry dive in the auditorium.

Now we just got a whole bunch of pretty colourful thank-you letters from the EIS students and - believe it or not - Angelina Jolie (see above)… Thanks guys, you’re always welcome!

Jens Auer

Maritime Archaeology Programme

Start of a new semester

// September 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Announcements, Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

During the MAP Freshers Day treasure hunt

At the beginning of our first week at the MAP in Esbjerg, there was an introduction day filled with information, quizzes, plenty of beer and a barbecue. It all started in the auditorium where we got an overview of the Maritime Archaeology Programme.

After that we were in the hands of the second graders. My group started with a quiz which felt really hard in the beginning, but then we got some beers and the questions became a lot easier after that. We were later dropped in front of the swimming pool in town to start our treasure hunt. After walking around all of Esbjerg and searching for answers, we managed to find the pub, Paddy goes easy. There we got together with all the other groups who were already sitting in the pub and having a beer. The same evening there was a barbecue party on campus and we enjoyed a really nice meal with a lot of food. Everyone seemed to have a good time and there was a lot of mingling about diving,
speculations about teachers and other topics.

Sila Sokulu

Maritime Archaeology Programme

Recording in 3D

// April 30th, 2010 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Using a 3D laser scanner on the Faro arm

As a result of SDU’s commitment to provide cutting edge training and education to its students, the Maritime Archaeology Programme held a weeklong intensive hands on training session with the FARO Arm in conjunction with the 2010 FARO Arm and Rhino Archaeological Users Group (FRAUG) meeting.  This cutting edge technology was first developed for the automotive industry but is now also being utilized by the archaeological community out of a need for a common methodology for 3D data recording.

For this week, a number of experts from projects throughout Europe came together to show us how to record archaeological artifacts in 3D.  Using 4 different FARO Arms along with a 3D laser scanner, we were able to create digital renderings of timbers from the early modern “Wittenbergen” wreck that sank in the Elbe.  The instructors then showed us how to properly organize the data, using Rhino 3D, a computer aided design (CAD) program.  This data could then be used to produce 2D line drawings or a physical 3D model of the artifacts.  The week ended with a meeting of FARO Arm users updating the group on their respective projects and troubleshooting the various issues related to 3D modeling.

We would like to express their thanks to Toby Jones and  Erica McCarthy (Newport Ship Project), Frank Dallmeijer (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed) for their patience and expertise, helping the SDU students remain at the forefront of archaeological innovation. Many thanks also to the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven for participating in the organization of the course and to Dr Ralf Wiechmann at the Museum for the History of Hamburg for providing the timbers for recording!

Andrew Stanek & Nicholas Ranchin-Dundas

Guns in 3D

// January 6th, 2010 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Frederik Hyttel, one of the students here at the Maritime Archaeology Programme in Esbjerg won our “HMS St George gun modelling competition”…- well, or just delivered an incredibly detailed model…
You can download his model of an iron 12 pounder lifted from the wreck of HMS St George below. Frederik’s model is based on the total station survey of a gun and carriage on display in the Strandingsmuseum Thorsminde. To view the Rhino 3D file, you need a copy of Rhinoceros3D. A fully functional evaluation version can be downloaded here. The Sketchup file can be viewed and modified with the free 3D modelling software Google Sketchup.

Iron 12 Pounder HMS St George (Rhino3D file - 17MB)

Iron 12 Pounder HMS St George (Sketchup file - 26MB)

The St George Rudder and Cannons Day

// January 6th, 2010 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Recording the guns of HMS St George

The day we were all going to know as St.George Rudder and the Cannons Day started very early, in fact way too early for most of the Maritime Archaeology students, but as dedicated students we sacrificed our sleep in (which never goes past 9:30 of course). After traveling north through the Danish tundra we arrived at the edge of the Nissum Fjord. To be exact the small settlement of Thorsminde where the Strandingsmuseum was situated. Here we started the day by (under protest) being split up into two groups. We were to take turns in taking points with the Total-Station as well as measuring the remaining canons and carriages of the St.George by hand and in precise measurement drawn archaeological drawing of the famous St.George Rudder.

After the (which has known to be a standard procedure) arguments and discussions of the first group, about whether the 3 cm diameter hole in the 7m rudder was on an original part of the rudder or a reinforcement, the archaeological drawing could start! Unfortunately at this point one and a half hours had passed and it was time for a change of stations.

The recording of the cannons had to be continued. Using the total station we started with 4 orientation points on the ground, and then recording points at every important angle and curve which would later be used to create a 3D model by using a program, loved by the students, called Rhino. With little coffee breaks and a short excursion to the pier the work made steady progress, plus we got to a free tour of the  museum by the very welcoming director (who also provided the coffee).

By the time it was starting to get dark, the last points of the carriage were being taken and recorded, and the last details of the St.George rudder were being drawn (this turned out to be an amazing drawing thanks to our special portuguese friend). Once finished we could make our long way back home to Esbjerg…

Watch this spot for the results!

Isger Vico Sommer

Row your (Viking) boat…

// September 25th, 2009 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Rowing into the storm, the Viking way (apart from those orange lifejackets)

Viking time!

Monday September 21st we went to Bork Viking harbour to get the feel of Viking life in action.
The boat we were taking out was a replica of Skuldelev 6, called “Ravnunge Bork”. The boat is meant for a crew of 7-16 men, our crew consisted of 2 experienced Vikings, one professor and 9 students, a good number for working this boat.
Number one rule when rowing, do not stare at your own oar, instead look at the person in the back on starboard side setting the pace. It was, of course, of great importance that we all were rowing at the same pace. Not doing so might have caused problems such as hitting the person in front, in the back or on the side of you, or their oars. With a bit of practice we all got into it. I do not know if we reached the expected speed of the boat, that is 4 knots, but we got it going.
From the harbour in Bork we rowed out along a  stream on to Ringkøbing fjord, on the way out to the fjord we past a sacrificial site with dead animals on display, the Vikings had been there…..
Out on the “open” fjord we all tried out our skills as coxswain, commanding the rowers to steer the ship around a buoy, who should row forward and backwards to make the turns more sufficient.
After a few tries we got the hang of that too and learned that it is even more efficient to use the rudder for steering rather than just the oars.

Setting sails we have not done yet (well, only on dry land), the winds have been too strong, but next week we will also get to sail the Viking way.

Liv Lofthus

Fins Beer and Barbecue…

// September 24th, 2009 // No Comments » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Or a first hand account of the semester start at SDU MAP:

Student Blog

High Viz and drilling platforms…

// September 24th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Maritime Archaeology Masters Programme

Andrew looking professional in safety gear...

During the summer (this post is a little late…) we got the chance to visit the drilling rig ENSCO 70, which was being refitted for a Mærsk contract in Esbjerg harbour. Esbjerg is developing into the Danish Offshore capital, and drilling rigs and platforms have become a common sight in the harbour.

Maritime archaeology is closely linked to the maritime industry sector, in methodology, and often in day to day tasks. It was therefore great  to get aboard a drilling platform and learn more about the daily life and routines on rigs and the production process.

Many thanks again to John Howell at Mærsk for making this visit possible!!

Jens Auer

Assistant Professor

Maritime Archaeology Programme