Monday, 26 March 2012

Learning about how to study shipwrecks and more...

Hi all
I have had such a busy week I have not had time to write up my blog. So this is a report of the last few days of training here with SAHRA.

In order to complete our qualifications, we had to complete modules as part of our diving practical experience. Thanks to Frog Squads submarine I could join in. There was a lot of work to be done and I was soon in the middle of all the action. The students and I, under the supervision and guidance of the expert professionals, set to work on planning and performing the initial task on the shipwreck, named ‘The Barrel Wreck’. It was called Barrel Wreck after all the barrels found on the site.

This first part of the survey work included laying down baselines forming a grid that would mean different parts of the objects could be related to the different squares. Control points position the wreck to its physical location.

Once this was done our next task was to secure control points in order to do measurements which would position specific features in relation to one another and on the surrounding network. It was very complicated for a little bear but with the help of the other students I soon got the hang of it.
Once this important network had been laid down we moved onto the next module, conservation. Vicki and Jon gave a briefing to the students about conservation methods and taught us how to use the equipment especially designed for underwater conservation work. Ship wrecks slowly rot or rust and it’s important to tell what state the wreck is in and then see what can be done to preserve it.
We were then given the opportunity to use the equipment on parts of the ‘Barrel Wreck’, testing PH and corrosion levels of the different materials making up the wreck.
I got to drive the boat to the wreck site which was very exciting.
The inflatable boat travelled very fast.

At the end of every dive day, there was no time to rest as we had to record all of the work we had done on the dive. This was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the type of survey work needed to be done for an underwater archaeology project both in and out of the water. This also showed how important it is to record everything straight after a dive, before you forget anything.

The post dive recording includes transcribing written material from underwater slates to hard copies, (you can write underwater using a slate), preparing the slates for the next day with fresh sheets, and plotting the measurements to Site Recorder, a computer program designed specifically for plotting and positioning underwater archaeological finds.
I helped with preparing the equipment, measuring tapes and slates, for the following day’s dives. I was also shown how to use Site Recorder. It was so interesting.

My adventure did not end with data collecting and survey recording; I was excited to join the land team with their research projects to learn more about the maritime environment on Robben Island and how it was connected to land sites. Here the teams involved me in the various projects which were; oral history (spoken history), grave sites, the walking tour, a ceramics collection and the geophysical survey. These projects focused on Robben Island as a world heritage but also on its potential to tell the many layers of history that Robben Island holds.

The SAHRA Team were thrilled to announce that all the students, including me, had successfully completed all of the modules for both NAS 1 and 2. I hold in my paws the NAS card to proudly hold up as evidence of his NAS qualification. I also got a special congratulation from Sophie.

I stayed with Sophie after the course and made a few more dives.

However, on my last dive the sea became rough and it was difficult to control. My submarine was bashed about and suddenly it started to leak.
All of a sudden a curtain of bubbles appeared in front of me and then a face. It was one of the Frog Squad Team. They had been keeping an eye on me as soon as they saw I was in trouble they swam over. With a diver on either side they took me back to the surface and back to the boat. Phew! Thanks Frog Squad.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ed the Bear studies Maritime Archaeology

Hi all

I left Abby and shortly after arriving in Cape Town, I travelled on the Robben Island Ferry with Sophie who is from SAHRA. SAHRA stands for ‘South African Heritage Resources Agency’. I will be joining a group of students who are doing a Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Field School. This is an international project to educate people who want to learn the skills to help protect underwater cultural heritage.
As you know I have a great interest in maritime heritage and so I was very pleased when I was offered the chance to take part in the course and learn more about underwater heritage.
When we got off the ferry I was taken to where the team was staying, a building once used as the common law prison. I meet some of the skilled experts involved in teaching different parts of the course, Vicki Richards and Jon Carpenter working as conservators at the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Bill Jeffery a maritime archaeologist from Australia, Peter Holt from the UK and creator of Site Recorder and John Gribble a Maritime Archaeologist from South Africa.
Me with Peter Holt, Heather and Mareille

Once I had settled and met the team they realised that I would only be able to experience the Robben Island Field school as I was unable to bring my diving bell. It would have taken too long to get the diving bell out to me and for it to pass safely through customs. I would at least have the chance to work alongside some of the students as they undertook research projects looking at heritage sites and their maritime connection. I would have to stay on dry land when the students experienced the research work below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Table Bay.

However, the dive support team, The Frog Squad, were quick to take up the challenge of finding a way for me to follow the students underwater. They set to work designing and building my very own water tight submersible.
Here I am inspecting the development of my new submarine.

After lots of discussion and planning the project was complete. I entered my new vessel, was given a safety talk, and very soon I set off to explore the world under water with the underwater team. Frog Squad had done a good job, but they warned me to be careful as the submersible had not been tested.
My first test dive in my new submersible, frog Squad Divers are keeping a close eye incase something goes wrong

Monday, 19 March 2012

On my way to Robben Island

Hi all

I have been busy in South Africa and enjoying my stay. At last I have the time to let you know what I have been doing here in South Africa.

After my very enjoyable stay with Abby I left for Robben Island to learn more about Heritage. As you know I am very interested in Heritage, especially when it is to do with oceans.

Back home in the UK, the harbour near the beach where I live has been important for trade soince the 11th century. Sailing ships were also built there that carried goods as far as New Zealand while other vessels, including man-o-war were built to protect the local coast from pirates and from invasion.

Here I am travelling across the channel to Robben Island with Sophie and Robert. You can see Table Mountain in the background.
Its a lovely sunny day just right for being out on the ocean. Time to relax for a while as I will be very busy on Robben Island.

Here is a quick taster. I was not able to get my diving bell shipped out to Robben Island in time, but guess what. A special organisation called Frog Squad built me an underwater scooter so I could explore a ship wreck here.
Things did not go completely as planned and I had an accident in my scooter and this is why I have not had the time to report back to you until now. Don't worry, I am safe and I will tell you more soon.

Bye for now, Ed the Bear