Tag Archives: Maritime Archaeology Field School

Preparation Day at the Vietnam Underwater Archaeology Training

On preparation day at the Vietnam Underwater Archaeology Training, the teams are spread throughout the Bach Dang Hotel lobby and restaurant writing up reports for all the projects we worked on in the last four weeks. We’ve had time to work on quite a few projects in four weeks, both underwater and on land: it’ll take the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi a while to read through all of them. Thankfully they will only receive group reports, not individual reports for the 30+ participants who’ve come to Hoi An from all over Southeast Asia as well as Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, the Netherlands, the US and Japan.

VUAT has certainly kept us busy. We go diving at Cu Lao Cham island two or three days a week and spend the other days working on land projects; Sunday is lecture day. At Cu Lao Cham, we’ve worked on several sites, including a stone anchor site, an unidentified assemblage of ceramics, and a potential shipwreck site. We spent a few days recording the stone anchor, one team used photogrammetry to produce a 3D model of the anchor. The assemblage of ceramics was found very close to the shore, in less than one meter of water. In such shallow water, we could do the baseline-offset recording without diving, which to my great delight meant no wetsuits! Of course, I got a wicked sunburn and spent the rest of the trip being called X-Man by my team leader because of the bright white cross on my bright red back. Once we had the baseline-offset technique down in 50cm of water, we applied it to the potential shipwreck site at 2m depth. Like the previous site, this site is really an assemblage of ceramics. Unlike the previous site, the ceramics found here clearly came from the same place. That, the sheer amount of ceramics we found, and the fact that some of them were stacked, lead us to believe this is what is left of a shipwreck. Dr Le Thi Lien of the Institute of Archaeology was able to identify it as a 16th or 17th century Cham ship built locally. As it is close to shore, in shallow water, and there are no complete ceramics, we suspect the site has been visited by the local fishermen. In any case, we set a 30m baseline and used 1mx1m frames to measure, describe and photograph the ceramics.


The land projects aimed to give us a better understanding of maritime history in the region. We visited 17th century Japanese graves, worked with shipwreck ceramics at the Hoi An Center of Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation, and learned about traditional boat building. We visited a couple boat yards and talked to the fishermen and shipwrights working there, then measured and photographed the boats. There are three types of boats in Hoi An: large European-style fishing boats, táu, smaller traditional fishing boats, ghe, and even smaller basket boats, thuyền thúng. My favourite land project however was talking to Xa Lan, a fisherman living in Cu Lao Cham.

Xa Lan invited us into his home and gave us a lot of information on where to find potential sites.

Xa Lan invited us into his home and helped us identify potential sites.

We visited Xa Lan at the beginning of week 3; it took us a while to get him to tell us about things he’d found underwater but eventually he opened up and had a lot to say. A lot. He is very frustrated that there are no funds available to study the history of Cu Lao Cham, so when we told him about our project he was happy to tell us all about what he’d seen and found while free diving for crustaceans and mollusks. He talked about a French shipwreck, lead ingots weighing up to 300kg, a heap of bricks lying 120 meters off shore, and two separate anchor sites. On Wednesday, we picked him up on speedboat so he could show us all the sites. A lot of the sites were quite deep and while Xa Lan can free dive to 50 meters, most of our divers aren’t allowed to go past 9m so we couldn’t investigate most of the sites. We sent some divers to look at the French shipwreck site even though Xa Lan warned us that the locals had picked it clean and there would not be anything left. He was right. In the end, none of the sites we were able to send divers to check out turned up anything but we still have the deeper sites to investigate!

Participating in the Vietnam Underwater Archaeology Training has been an incredible experience. Aside from the practical skills I’ve acquired, I’ve met the most interesting and talented people, whom I really hope to continue working with in the future. Each week we’ve had presentation from participants about maritime archaeology in their countries; exciting things are happening in Southeast Asia and I for one want to be involved.

The VUAT members on the last day.

The VUAT members on the last day.

Leven Lass: An Origin Story

By: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch

As I near the end of my directed study in maritime archaeology, I wanted to take the time to discuss one of the main facets of my final report: Leven Lass. I have had the opportunity thoroughly to research the background of Leven Lass, not only for my directed study, but also as part of my masters thesis. For my thesis, I am producing a multiphasic vessel biography on Leven Lass utilising Wessex Archaeology’s BULSI (Build, Use, Loss, Survival, and Investigation) system. I plan on evaluating the system for its utility in shipwreck studies and place Leven Lass in a broader context of nineteenth century seafaring in Australia.

Leven Lass was chosen as my thesis topic after the 2014 Maritime Archaeology Field School conducted at Phillip Island, Victoria this past January. The field school was centred on a wreck that was determined to be Leven Lass by a previous Flinders masters student who worked on the wreck during the 2012 Maritime Archaeology Field School (Wilson 2012). While the focus of that thesis was more on maritime cultural landscapes, my thesis is looking at the vessel’s life cycle or career, from design inception to shipwreck investigation, and its broader implications for shipwreck studies, significance assessments and post-colonial Australian seafaring.

Leven Lass was built in Dumbarton, Scotland, at Denny’s Shipyard (see Figure 1 below), yard number two, in 1839 (The Clyde Built Ships 2014). Leven Lass was sold in Glasgow, Scotland, on 16 September 1852 by Paton and Grant and sailed from Scotland to Australia (Melbourne) on 1 October 1852 by Captain Sholto Gardener Jamieson (1818-1882), arriving in 1853 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8; Lythgoe 2014; Wilson 2012). The brig Leven Lass spent time as a post carrier between Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney and was considered “a remarkably fast sailer” (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8). A brig was a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging on both masts and was commonly used as couriers on coastal routes (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014). 



Figure 1. A model rendition of Denny’s shipyard in 1908 at Dumbarton, Scotland (Royal Museums Greenwich 2014).

Leven Lass is going to be thoroughly researched by the end of 2014 to say the least. The field report being constructed for Heritage Victoria during this directed study is not going to be as detailed as my proposed thesis but more of a synopsis of field work conducted and a discussion of the results and interpretation of the data collected during both the 2012 and 2014 field schools.


Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014 “Brig”. Retrieved 3 June 2014 from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/79477/brig.

Glasgow Herald 1852 “At Glasgow – For Melbourne, Port-Phillip”. 17 September: 8.

Lythgoe, Darrin 2014 Shetland Family History. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.bayanne.info/Shetland/getperson.php? personID=I11228&tree=ID1.

Royal Museums Greenwich 2014 Denny’s Shipyard. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://prints.rmg.co.uk/art/510730/Topographic_model_Dennys_shipyard_Dumbarton.

The Clyde Built Ships 2014 Leven Lass. Electronic document. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=14432,

Wilson, Dennis D. 2012 The Investigation of Unidentified Wreck 784, Phillip Island, Victoria: Applying Cultural Landscape Theory and Hierarchy of Time to the Assessment of Shipwreck Significance. Unpublished Masters thesis, DEPT Flinders University, Adelaide.



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.