Author Archives: chelseacolwellpasch

Green Team – Lovin’ Life at the Leven Lass

Figure 1: Panoramic view of shore, looking out to the 'Leven Lass' site

Figure 1: Panoramic view of shore, looking out to the ‘Leven Lass’ site

Authors: Xander Berry, Attila Lukács, and Vanessa Sullivan

The Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Program’s field school has been hard at work for the past week, SCUBA diving up to three times a day, to record the Leven Lass shipwreck site off of Phillip Island, Victoria. Built in 1839 in Scotland, Leven Lass was a brig used primarily for timber trade. The ship ran aground off Westernport Bay in 1854 and has been waiting for archaeologists to tell it’s story ever since!

Although this is not Flinders University’s first time to the site; it is a first for many of the field school participants, including the members of the field school’s Green Team: Xander Berry, Attila Lukács, and Vanessa Sullivan (supervised by Kurt Bennett and Maddy Fowler). As a means to develop students understanding of the skill-set required for underwater archaeological survey, a myriad of archaeology methods have been utilised throughout the course of the field school, including mapping, photography, and geophysics.

Getting Started:

An integral component of any archaeological survey, whether it is above or below the water, is the establishment of datum points. These datum points allow for measurements of artefacts and structures to be made accurately throughout a site. Essentially, the datum point (or datum network) acts as building blocks for the archaeological site survey and provides points of reference at the site.

Figure 2: Xander Berry taking measuring off a datum point

Figure 2: Xander Berry taking measuring off a datum point

The re-establishment of a datum network at the Leven Lass shipwreck site was one of the many tasks students have undertaken as a part of the shipwreck survey. A number of datum points were already put into place during the 2012 field season however, the measurements of each segment needed to be re-measured to account for any changes that likely occurred at the site since 2012. The identification of the datum points from the 2012 season proved to be a beneficial way for students to introduce themselves to the extent and layout of the Leven Lass site.

Mapping the Wreck:

Once measurements for the datum network had been completed, measurements of the ship structure and associated artefacts could begin. The shipwreck is situated in a dynamic environment making something as simple as holding a tape measure extremely difficult. To make the measurement process easier on the team, a baseline was set up between two of the datum points: D and I. The placement of the baseline was selected due to its proximity to exposed hull timbers.

Figure 3: Green Team practicing baseline/offset and trilateration measurements

Figure 3: Green Team practicing baseline/offset and trilateration measurements

Two methods of data point collection have been utilised during Green Team’s survey: baseline/offset and trilateration. The baseline/offset system  uses a right angle between a baseline and the point to  measure, where trilateration relies on measurements from two or more points. At present over 200 measurements have been collected. The points all represent features on the ship structure or of an artefact and can be used to assist in the creation of a detailed site plan. The site plan is a work in progress… Xander is entering data into the Site Recorder program as this blog is being written!

In addition, detailed and small-scale mapping has been completed for areas along the baseline that have parts of the ship structure that are more intricate. These small-scale drawings are going to be overlain on the Leven Lass site plan and perhaps even aligned with scaled photographs of the site and ship components.

Photographing the Site:

Photography has been used throughout the surveying process to document the shipwreck site as well as the surveying process at the site. Dr. Jonathan Benjamin, with Flinders University, gave a lecture to students on underwater photography so that the students had some basic knowledge on camera settings and photographic methods. Photography has played a crucial role in the data collection process at the Leven Lass site: photographs of individual artefacts, photographs along the baseline, and photographs of the surveying process have been taken on a daily basis.

Attila has worked on combining several photos that were taken of the ship’s wooden planking to create a photomosaic. This photomosaic has been extremely useful in assessing the artefact back on dry land and being able to look at the piece as a whole, rather than just what the visibility in the water allows for. It is a team goal to be able to create such detailed images for other artefacts as well, however that is all dependent upon visibility and, of course, time.

Figure 4: Photomosaic of wood planking at the Leven Lass Site

Figure 4: Photomosaic of wood planking at the Leven Lass Site

Where are we?:

Although the datum network allows the team to understand where they are working within the site, it does not provide an understanding of the shipwreck’s location in relation to the rest of the world. For this reason, Green Team took GPS points from the shoreline as well as four of the datum points and a feature on the shipwreck site. The Leven Lass GPS points were collected by floating a buoy from the datum points, to the surface, and collecting the GPS data at the buoy. Having the GPS points enables the team to geo-reference the site and overlay the data onto existing nautical charts and maps.

Life at a field school has not only been about work below the waves; it has also included a series of lectures on the various components of maritime archaeology, use of computer programs to log and record the data collected at the site, and hours spent trying to make sense of the ever chancing Leven Lass archaeological site. Green Team still has a couple more days of hard work ahead of us, and with each passing day more and more of the Leven Lass site becomes visible, bringing new information to the surface with each dive!

Figure  5: Green Team! (From left to right): Maddy Fowler, Kurt Bennett, Xander Berry, Vanessa Sullivan, and Attila Lukács

Figure 5: Green Team! (From left to right): Maddy Fowler, Kurt Bennett, Xander Berry, Vanessa Sullivan, and Attila Lukács

Blue Team – Happy and gay at three meters, Maritime Archaeology Field School

Authors:  Peta Straiton, Mark White, Richard Pauley and Jonathan Bauer

After the long 868 kilometre trip from Adelaide to Phillip Island, Victoria, all field participants were keen to get straight into work [after a good night’s sleep of course]. Participants were divided into colour coordinated groups. We, the “Blue Team” consist of Mark White, Jonathan Bauer, Peta Straiton and Richard Pauley, and is supervised by the wonderful Jane Mitchell, and the beautiful Julie Mushynsky.

Unfortunately, the Blue Team’s plans for day one were thwarted by bad weather which made for unsafe diving conditions. To combat their dismay the Blue Team (along with all the other teams) worked in their groups to refresh their skills in conducting baseline-offset surveys, trilateration, and photography.

With more promising weather on the second morning all divers headed out to the beach to ensure that everyone’s skills were up to scratch. Luckily everyone passed. Despite a slight breeze, the search for the underwater site began. The Blue Team was scheduled to be the second group in the water, however, the weather once again turned sour. Strong surges and limited visibility rendered the site unsafe. Fortunately for the Blue Team we were still able to catch some sun on the beach and even under take some foot surveys do a little bit of work.

Wednesday proved to be a far more successful day for the Blue Team. We travelled to Rhyll Beach where a cool breeze and hot sun could not stop us from undertaking magnetometer surveys, conducting metal detector sweeps, gathering GPS points and performing baseline-offset surveys.

The team, in conjunction with John Jansson (a local historian and shipwreck enthusiast) were trying to locate an old wreck that was originally named the Oscar but was later called the Ventnor. Mr Jansson provided us with valuable information about the history of this vessel.

Built in 1874 as a 29-ton, 73-foot scow hull at Footscray (Melbourne) for the Carlton and United Breweries, the vessel regularly  transported beer to Williamstown (J. Jansson pers. comm. 5/2/14). However, in January 1923, the vessel was purchased by the Phillip Island and Western Port Steam Shipping Company to act as a ferry after they added a wheel house.  The vessel was to be captained by Jack Johanaugust Jansson, Mr Jansson’s grandfather (J.Jansson pers. comm. 5/2/14). In 1925 the vessel was laid up and its superstructure dismantled. The remains of the hull were later beached and dismantled. John  Jansson (pers. comm. 5/2/14) confirmed that this timber-built ship contained metal fastenings for the team to discover.

To assist with the growing population of the island and Rhyll Beach’s popularity a seawall was constructed to provide a stable area near the beach where families could sit and relax. The seawall currently rests directly on top of the vessel’s remains. While the data from the magnetometer is still being processed and analysed, the metal detector did manage to locate several features and may possibly be the fastenings of the ship’s hull.

By using the baseline-offset survey technique, we recorded the remains of the old retaining wall for the original slipway (Figure 1). Located on the eastern side of the current slipway and surrounded by basalt rock, these remains help to define the extremities of this original access point.

Figure 1: Remains of the timber slipway retaining wall, facing northwest.  Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Figure 1: Remains of the timber slipway retaining wall, facing northwest.
Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Thursday proved to be a day full of learning, excitement and challenges that the Blue Team were ready to face head on. By 8:00 AM, we were on the road to the boat ramp to finally dive the site; the site we had all come to see. After a small hiccup (of misplaced diving equipment), we entered the water for our first dive, and what an amazing dive it was. Flat calm seas, good visibility, and hardly a breath of wind. The team did not waste any time, going full force into their assigned tasks. Laying a baseline for surveys, photographing features and creating site plans. All was going well until we got out of the water only to discover we had lost the entire site plan and photo log.

After changing our tanks, eating lunch and quickly discussing what we did well and what needed improvement, we were back in the water with stronger plans, stronger minds and more determination than ever. Continuing with the tasks we did not finish (or re-doing what was lost), the team were all smiles and laughs as they hauled themselves into the boat to return to camp, happy with a job well done (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Peta Straiton, photography, Richard Pauley recording with Julie Mushynsky.  Photo taken by Jonathan Benjamin.

Figure 2: Peta Straiton, photography, Richard Pauley recording with Julie Mushynsky.
Photo taken by Jonathan Benjamin.

Friday morning was similar to Thursday, with the team packing to be ready to leave at 8:00 AM. Continuing with baseline-offset measurements and scale drawings, the first dive went smoothly. Returning to shore with a sense of accomplishment the team changed tanks, ate, and once again returned to the site. While the second dive proved to be more complex than the last, with strong surges and visibility down to one metre, the team proved that we have what it takes to get the job done.

With the first week at an end and the second just about to begin, all team members are enjoying the complexities that the field school presents mentally, emotionally and physically. We have all enjoyed the camaraderie that has developed, and we have already created memories never to be forgotten. All we can say is that, so far,  we have had a positively Gaytime (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Richard, Mark, Jane, and Jon, enjoying an Aussie Golden Gaytime.  Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Figure 3: Richard, Mark, Jane, and Jon, enjoying an Aussie Golden Gaytime.
Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Red Team – Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School: Taking Geophysics Down Under

Authors: Lauren Davison, Josh Russ, and Tim Zapor

From 2nd February, 2014 until 16th February, 2014, Flinders University teaches its Maritime Archaeology Field School in which students have a unique opportunity to have hands-on training in the field. Generally, only a few people get such experience until they reach a professional level.  Students from around the world get a chance to gain valuable knowledge from professionals, historians, PhD. candidates, and local societies around Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia.  This experience gained is invaluable and helps to elevate the growth and knowledge of these aspiring professionals in a field of great importance to cultural heritage.  Archaeology is a field in which professionals and the community share in the protection of a finite resource that will be lost without the cooperation of both parties.

Figure 1: Field school ‘check-out’ dive at Cowes Jetty, Phillip Island, Vic. [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 1: Field school ‘check-out’ dive at Cowes Jetty, Phillip Island, Vic. [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 2: ‘Check-out’ dive surface attendants Vanessa Sullivan (Green team) and Josh Russ (Red team) [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 2: ‘Check-out’ dive surface attendants Vanessa Sullivan (Green team) and Josh Russ (Red team) [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

In collaboration with Heritage Victoria (HV) (Peter Harvey and Toni Massey), the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria (MAAV) (Peter Taylor and Des Williams), and Flinders University, students have made preliminary evaluations of possible shipwreck sites off the coast of Phillip Island using a side scan sonar from HV’s vessel Trim.

Figure 2: Peter Harvey (HV) and Peter Taylor (MAAV) helping Tim Zapor plot points for the side-scan sonar survey grid on Trim (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 3: Peter Harvey (HV) and Peter Taylor (MAAV) helping Tim Zapor (Short course student) plot points for the side-scan sonar survey grid on Trim (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

One such wreck that was discovered is Vixen, which was a schooner-rigged, carvel-built ferry that sunk in 1917 while under-tow from Phillip Island to Melbourne, Vic.  Vixen had taken on water while moored at Rhyll when the topside seams burst open in 1915 (Jansson 2013).  On the 20th of July 1917, the tugboat Sprightly was towing Vixen to Melbourne for repairs when it became unattached and started to founder.  There was an attempt to run the vessel aground at Rhyll (Phillip Island) but it failed and Vixen sank about a mile east of Cowes Jetty. The exact location of the shipwreck site was unknown until the 6th February, 2014 when a team of professionals, students, and local society members located the long lost ship remains (Department of the Environment 2013).  The team was able to successfully locate the wreck with the use of local knowledge of events surrounding the wrecking event as well as the advanced technology of side scan sonar.

Figure 6: Vixen at Cowes, November 1902 – A.J. Campbell, Museum of Victoria Collection (Photo courtesy of John Jannson).

Figure 4: Vixen at Cowes, November 1902 – A.J. Campbell, Museum of Victoria Collection (Photo courtesy of John Jannson).

In underwater archaeology, geophysics is the scientific study of features below the surface or seabed using a range of instruments including side scan sonar to produce an image (Bowens 2009:217).  Side scan sonar is a method that uses sound that reflects off the seabed and objects and produces shadows that with enough experience can be interpreted and then investigated.  Side scan sonar emits sound waves that strike the sea floor and creates imagery by recording the timing and amplitude of those sound wave reflections (Bowens 2009:218).  This method cannot replace divers on the seafloor, but greatly aids in the locating of shipwrecks and other material on the seabed especially in hazardous conditions.  This is exactly how the Vixen was located.  Peter Harvey and Toni Massey from Heritage Victoria kindly lent their assistance and boat Trim and with the knowledge acquired from Peter Taylor and Des Williams (MAAV) after countless hours of research and years of looking for the Vixen; allowed students to participate in an astounding find for Phillip Island and for most of the students, their first shipwreck.

Figure 3: Peter Taylor (MAAV) and Des Williams (MAAV) pulling up the ‘tow-fish’ (HummingBird Sonar 898) after the side-scan sonar survey (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 5: Peter Taylor (MAAV) and Des Williams (MAAV) pulling up the ‘tow-fish’ (HummingBird Sonar 898) after the side-scan sonar survey (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 4: Vixen shipwreck imaged from the side-scan sonar (image captured 6th February, 2014).

Figure 6: Vixen shipwreck imaged from the side-scan sonar (image captured 6th February, 2014).

The image above shows a slight deviation from the seabed that, to the untrained eye, doesn’t appear to be much, but with experience one can start to ‘pick out’ these variations.  Experience comes with hours of observing these images and experts can start to identify the presence of possible shipwrecks.  After locating a possible site, divers are needed to confirm the remains because not every image is necessarily a wreck.

Figure 5: The Red Team left to right: Josh Russ, Supervisor Toni Massey, Tim Zapor, Supervisor Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, and Lauren Davison (Photo taken by Des Williams).

Figure 7: The Red Team left to right: Josh Russ, Supervisor Toni Massey, Tim Zapor, Supervisor Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, and Lauren Davison (Photo taken by Des Williams).

The use of side scan sonar helped to limit the time and cost of endless hours of diver searching that would produce little results.  This method allowed for a non-invasive and in-situ identification and preservation of a wreck that would be otherwise lost forever.  Local historian John Jansson, and fellow local historians, have an invested interest in preserving the culture of the area and helping to educate people on the history surrounding the ships as well as the intangible heritage that brings the human perspective to the physical remains.  The cooperation between local community members and professionals alike, such as was undertaken in this investigation, aids in the preservation of the world’s heritage, one shipwreck at a time.

References

Bowens, Amanda (editor)

2009 Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing, West Sussex.

Campbell, A.J.

1902 Museum of Victoria Collection.

Department of the Environment

2013 Australian National Shipwrecks Database. Electronic document, http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/database.htm, accessed February 8, 2013.

Jansson, John

2013 Personal Communication.

Maritime Archaeology Field School 2014 – Phillip Island, Victoria

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

 

This year the Maritime Archaeology Field School run by Flinders University’s Maritime Archaeology Program is held on Phillip Island, Victoria from 2-15 February, 2014. As part of the continuous assessment requirement for the field school, students from around the world and Australia write team blogs about their experiences and research as they near the end of their first week in the field. The students are divided into four teams (red, blue, green and yellow) and each team is responsible for contributing to the data recovery and the recording of the various maritime cultural heritage projects. Projects that students are able to undertake include underwater shipwreck surveys, foreshore surveys, and geophysical surveys. All work is done in cooperation with Heritage Victoria. Besides having daily work plans and data processing, students also attend lectures by industry professionals, local historians and avocational archaeologists on various topics and projects within Victoria. The students in each team have different experiences and involvements during field school and their unique perspectives are captured in their separate blog posts as a way for them to reflect and learn from their experiences as well as practice public archaeology through the dissemination of project details. Over the course of the next few days, each team’s blog post will be published on Flinders Archaeology Blog for public viewing.

Let’s get Geophysical! Non-invasive Underwater Archaeological Survey Methods

Trends are not a new concept to archaeology. The patterns found in the archaeological record are what lead to the wider inferences made about past cultures or behaviours. However, the latest trend in archaeology isn’t about similarities in information sets or assemblages,but rather the movement towards in situ (in place) preservation of archaeological sites, especially in underwater archaeology. I use the term ‘trend’ loosely, as it implies that in situ preservation is a ‘fad’ that will become obsolete given enough time or with the arrival of a newer, en vogue concept. I actually believe the opposite is true, that in situ preservation is here to stay and that it is the future of archaeology, above or below the water. This is not so much my opinion, but more of an observation. Looking at the international legislation that surrounds underwater cultural heritage (UCH), one cannot help but see that in situ preservation is pressed as the primary approach (UNESCO, 2001: Article 2,5; UNESCO Annex, 2001:Rule 1) and in many introductory texts, non-invasive survey methods are considered the future (Bowens, 2009:5). We need to know what is under the seabed in order to know if archaeological sites lie beneath, but we are trending away from invasive methods of surveying like subsurface testing. This leaves non-invasive approaches like geophysical surveys and remote sensing.

Geophysics in underwater archaeology is the scientific study of features below underwater and under the seabed using a range of specialized instruments while remote sensing is obtaining images of a phenomena from a distance (Bowens 2009: 217). It is common for these two methods to be grouped together, as they both deal with the ability to collect large amounts of data quickly and understand the scale of the surveyed site without having to be directly on or necessarily near it. In the past, geophysics was used primarily for site prospection but has been applied more recently to research and site management (Bowens 2009: 103). Geophysical and remote sensing surveys allow for the coverage of large areas relatively quickly and economically. They are not meant to replace divers on a site, but aid in timely identification of site locations, site distribution, site boundaries, and sub-seabed phenomena and are particularly useful in environments with poor underwater visibility, strong currents, or any other environmental hazards. Geophysical and remote sensing surveying methods will be discussed and can be grouped into three types: acoustic systems, magnetometers, and submersibles. These methods are used over a large area to ensure complete coverage of the site and its environmental context and are very accurate when used with global positioning system (GPS) satellites and differential global positioning system (DGPS) land-based reference stations. Using both will increase site position fixing as DGPS makes range corrections for GPS satellites; the addition of an on-boat GPS antenna increases accuracy (Bowens 2009:94).

Acoustic Systems:

These systems are the most commonly used geophysical method for underwater archaeological surveying. Sonar,or sound waves, are used in order to obtain the desired information. Some forms of acoustic surveying systems are: echo-sounders, multibeam sonars, side scan sonars, and sub-bottom profilers (Bowens 2009:104). The general idea behind these types of non-invasive systems is to use reflected sound waves (echoes) to construct a picture of what the underwater site and bathymetry, or depth over seabed, looks like.  Figure 1 shows the different components and general setup for using side scan sonar. Side scan sonar uses a wide-angle pulse of sound (emitted from the towfish) and the strength of the reflected scattered sound to display an image (Figure 2). The coverage of the side scan sonar can reach over 100m on either side of the track line. The track line is a gap in between the two sides; its size varies by size of coverage and depth. It is a ‘dead space’ of sorts where there is too much interference between the two sides to get an accurate image. This problem can be countered by overlapping boat runs to ensure full coverage. Acoustic shadows are also important as they can give a general description of objects that sit proud (vertical) to the seabed (Bowens 2009:108), see Figure 2.

Image

Figure 1.  The components and set up of a side scan sonar (image created by author)

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Figure 2. The results of a side scan sonar survey (after Kainic 2012)

Echo-sounders and multibeam sonars are generally used to gauge vertical measurements or depth. Echo-sounders were first to be applied to maritime archaeology and used a single transceiver to send an acoustic pulse straight down to the seabed and read the reflection or echo on a single prescribed spot. Multibeam sonar (also known as swath bathymetry) records a continuous thin strip of depth directly below and to the side of the boat (Figure 3), effectively scans the surface of the seabed, and creates a 3D image via colour gradations to highlight depressions and outcrops, as represented in Figure 4 (Bowens 2009:106). Sub-bottom profiling is the only means to locate buried wooden material culture underwater; metal material culture will be discussed in the next section. Strong short pulses of sound are shot into the seabed sediment and ‘reflect’ anything that sends the echo back earlier than the rest. The two forms of sub-bottom profiler are single-frequency pulse (also known as ‘pingers’ and ‘boomers’) and swept-frequency pulse (‘chirp’) (Bowens 2009: 109). Using both devices ensures the best coverage and penetration of the seabed.

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Figure 3. The setup of a multibeam sonar survey (image created by author)

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Figure 4. The results from a multibeam sonar survey, red are closer to the surface while blue is deeper (after Cox 2012)

Magnetometers:

Magnetometers measure the strength of the earth’s magnetic field and are used to detect the presence of ferrous material (iron) by the variations they cause in said field (Bowens 2009:111). This may include both man-made objects, like the cannon in Figure 5, or geological formations. They are usually deployed in a towing array to inhibit interference from the tow boat and the data they collect are plotted (or ‘contoured’) according to varying magnetic intensities (Figure 6).

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Figure 5. The setup of an underwater magnetometer survey (image created by author)

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Figure 6. The results of a magnetometer survey (Spirek 2001: Figure 2)

Submersibles:

Submersibles for archaeological surveying come in three forms: remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and manned submersibles. They can perform many tasks including visual assessments or searches, and photography, thereby negating the need for divers in the water (Bowens 2009:112). ROVs are piloted from the boat and can be outfitted with an array of data-collection devices like acoustic systems or video recorders (Figure 6). AUVs can be outfitted with these devices as well, but are not piloted nor are they attached to a vessel. Manned submersibles can complete the same aforementioned tasks but with an on-board pilot for more control and precision. manned submersibles fall into three categories; commercial, tourism, and research (Kohnen 2005:121).  (Figure 7).

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Figure 6. The setup of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) (image created by author)

 Carolyn sub

Figure 7. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology’s (INA) manned submersible Carolyn in operation in the Aegean Sea (Kohnen 2011)

We know that the goal is to try to leave the archaeological site in its original context, as well as the best non-invasive ways to survey it, but why go through all the trouble? As archaeology is an ever changing field that progresses in parallel with new technology, it is undeniable that the information we gather ten years from now will be of a higher quality and degree of accuracy than what we collect today. This means that whatever we choose not to disturb today may never need to be disturbed in the future. Yet we must still yield a high degree of archaeological data,and therefore non-invasive survey methods, like those mentioned above, are an investment for our future AND our past.

References

Bowens, Amanda (editor)

2009 Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing, West Sussex.

Cox, Marijke

2012 Building an Estuary Airport Close to Sunken Warship Branded ‘Bonkers’. Electronic document, http://www.kentnews.co.uk/news/building_an_estuary_airport_close_to_sunken_warship_branded_bonkers_1_1416102, accessed 30/08/2013.

Kainic, Pascal

2012 Search and Recovery Side Scan Sonar. Electronic document, http://www.yousaytoo.com/search-and-recovery-side-scan-sonar/1924787#:image:2729577, accessed 30/08/2013.

Kohnen, William

2005 Manned research submersibles: State of technology 2004/2005. Marine Technology Society Journal, 39(3): 121-126.

Kohnen, William

2011 Carolyn‘s 10-year Aegean voyage for INA. Electronic document, http://nauticalarch.org/news_events/news_events_archives/prior_to_2011/carolyn_takes_a_break/, accessed 01/09/2013.

Schott, Becky K.

2013 The Wrecks of Thunder Bay: A Photo Essay. Electronic document, http://www.alertdiver.com/m/?a=art&id=780, accessed 30/08/2013.

Spirek, James

2001 Port Royal Sound Survey: Search Begins for Le Prince. Legacy, 6(2):28-30.

UNESCO 2001 Convention for protection of underwater cultural heritage.

Out of the textbook, into the trenches: the practicality of a field practicum

There is nothing more frightening for a fresh university graduate then traversing the job market for the first time with their new degree and a realistic fear of not gaining employment in their field. The ‘real world’ can be a scary place and with a specialized profession, like archaeology, the positions that are available may be rare and highly competitive. Undertaking a field practicum while obtaining your degree can be a great way to get a ‘leg up’ on the competition. This July, I undertook ARCH 8159-Maritime Archaeology Field Practicum that took place over a week on Hinchinbrook Island in far North Queensland. Besides the obvious benefits of obtaining 4.5 credits, in only a week, towards my Masters in Maritime Archaeology degree (MMARCH) and spending that week on a beautiful uninhabited tropical island, I also gained valuable work experience; established resourceful personal contacts, and; received practical guidance from course supervisors and peers.

[In transit to Hinchinbrook Island on a small charter ferry from Port Hinchinbrook, QLD in the early morning of 8 July, 2013; photo courtesy of: Chelsea Pasch]

[In transit to Hinchinbrook Island on a small charter ferry from Port Hinchinbrook, QLD in the early morning of 8 July, 2013; photo courtesy of: Chelsea Pasch]

It is through practical courses, like field schools and practicums, that one finds out what the physical aspects of ‘the job’ entails; archaeology as a verb, an action. As a student, you know about research, report writing, and deadlines. These translate well into the life of a professional archaeologist and little transition is needed besides learning new formats or report requirements. It’s the adaptability needed in the field, the uncertainty of variables like weather and transportation, and the psychological components, that can sometimes find their way on to your project, that are impossible to teach in a classroom. For example, over the course of the week we had five out of seven days with winds over 30 knots (over 55 kilometers per hour). We had four out of seven days with rain for the majority of the day, and showers just about every day. It is also difficult, for anyone, to live an entire week on an island spending all of your ‘awake time’ (and ‘sleep time’, as we shared tents) with the same eight people. While things can get tense, you can choose to take away insight into different personalities, how to deal with them, mediate, and help build your emotional intelligence, or workplace empathy skills. Alas, there is no syllabus written about “how to keep your field logbook dry and legible when it’s constantly raining” or “how to not take everything personally in the field”. Its experiential knowledge gained from ‘mistakes made’ and ‘lessons learned’ while one is out in the field. I guarantee that what you pack for your first field experience is nothing like what you’re going to pack on your second or twentieth field project. Suddenly having a fresh pair of pants every day is not worth the extra kilos in your pack by the tenth time you lift it onto your shoulders, and that expensive new jacket that’s supposed to be waterproof is only water resistant. You learn quickly what you don’t need and what you do. After digging numerous trenches by hand, I would’ve gladly traded my snorkeling gear for a shovel. During this past practicum I have experienced everything from a Cane toad jumping on my face whilst sound asleep in my tent, to hiking five kilometers in the sand in order to ‘dig holes’ quicker than the tide could fill them back up, and then hike five kilometers back to the start all while carrying gear. These are just a couple examples of some of the unexpected parts of working in the field that can only be understood by those who have experienced ‘doing archaeology’.

You may be asking; “what makes a field practicum different from a field school?” For the MMARCH program, ARCH 8152-Maritime Archaeology Field School is a core topic, meaning that it must be completed in order to fulfill the requirements of the degree. It is in the field school where you are first introduced to the practical component of Maritime Archaeology; where you are taught the foundations of how to ‘do Maritime Archaeology’. But it’s also where you are still undeniably a student in a class, an unconventional class, but a class none the less. The practicum is a topic elective that must be chosen by the student and is more likened to a job or internship. You must have completed the field school as a prerequisite to ensure at least some familiarity with fieldwork but it is expected that the students essentially be employees for the time they are in the field. You are expected to pull your own weight, like carrying gear every day to and from site, taking turns on the metal detector (which can start to weigh heavily on your arm after 15 minutes or so), or jumping in to help everyone back-fill the many trenches that were dug just about every day. We share the burdens and the triumphs.  This is where the true value of a field practicum lies.

[The practicum participants walking back to camp from North Shepherds Bay, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland on 8 July, 2013; photo courtesy of: Chelsea Pasch]

[The practicum participants walking back to camp from North Shepherds Bay, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland on 8 July, 2013; photo courtesy of: Chelsea Pasch]

Having completed now both the field school and the practicum, I can truly appreciate the experience I have gained by both, and recognize the variances between them. The field school is valuable as an introduction to fieldwork, field methods, and team dynamics; and the practicum for its introduction to the need for adaptability in the field and for the luxury of being able to make mistakes, learn from them, and have professionals available for guidance. Where you’re just not feeling like an overwhelmed student worrying about notes, terms, and performing academically, but having the confidence of a peer or employee; trusted with important project tasks, minimal supervision, and the pressure of performing professionally. The purpose of a practicum course is to provide invaluable field experience to students so they may feel confident in their abilities as an archaeologist in the field and so that they may successfully transfer the ‘proactively’ driven ‘book smarts’ of their degree to the ‘reactively’ driven reality of a project in the field.

It is no secret that I am an advocate for practicums in post-graduate degrees, especially ones as practical as archaeology. Flinders University offers an additional practicum course (ARCH 8156-Advanced Maritime Archaeology Fieldwork Practicum) as well as numerous field schools ranging from conservation (ARCH 8802) to geophysics (ARCH 8808). While the theory and research studied and performed while undertaking your advanced degree are equally important, it is the ability to know how to work in the field and the confidence of “been there, done that” that can really set you apart when the illusive job posting surfaces and you have more field experience than the other applicants. It may be enough to tip the scales in your favour. Even the personal connections you make on practicum, whether peers, supervisors, or informants, can be beneficial resources or references for future employment, projects, or field opportunities. I am not saying that doing the practicums will guarantee you a job, but I can guarantee it will not be looked upon as a waste of time or credits.