Global: Session 2 - Shipwreck Archaeology Exploration - Baltic 2013

Posted: Sun, Aug 25, 2013

Our Dive Buddy the ROV

Over the course of the summer we have done some very cool things with our ‘little green buddy’ the ROV. Not only can he brave the dark, numbingly cold depths of the Baltic Sea (230 meters is his current record!) in search of previously unseen wrecks, he has also proven to be a great dive buddy on shallower inshore wreck dives. As we have been developing the hands-on components of our underwater archeology curriculum, our ROV has been there to record the dives and images on video and has allowed the members of the crew on the surface to follow along and be a part of all the action and discoveries.
With the proper two-way voice communications between those on the surface and the divers below and the ROV providing a live, mobile, over-the-shoulder video feed, it is possible to make the underwater wrecks of the Baltic a virtual classroom for divers and non-divers alike.

Posted: Thu, Aug 15, 2013

Another Well Preserved Wreck on Klints Bank

On August 15th, just as the winds and seas began to build we had a great 45 minute ROV dive on the site the Swedish Database calls RAA 2:12. It is our second good site in and area known as The Klints Bank. A nice thing about this wreck is that there are no hung up trawler nets so we were able to fly the ROV safely over the deck to really get a decent view. We are working on dating the wreck and the top clues we will use are the steering gear arrangement and the anchor windlass assembly. M/Y Andromeda and here crew will be back out on Klints Bank once the weather clears to investigate at least one more of the identified sites on the bank and we will likely do a bit more searching in the area to see if Klints Bank is hiding any more wrecks of interest.

Posted: Thu, Aug 1, 2013

Touring the Vasa

Weve traveled all along the coast of Sweden, seen Viking hoards and 12th century castles. We have been scuba diving on shipwrecks from the 17th, 18th AND 19th centuries and found cannonballs, rigging, intact wooden jars and even a bone! Weve seen shoes, axes, pipes, anchors and other objects in situ and underwater since the fateful day they sank to the bottom of these cold, dark waters.
Just this past week, we dove on two shipwrecks that were destroyed by military test detonations in the 1920s, the Riksapplet (sank 1667) and the Grne Jagaren (sank 1676). Today they are strewn along the bottom in a giant pile, but through dives and video, we could piece together the remaining intact chunks of hull in our minds during our topside discussions over dinner. While working on the Riksapplet (The Apple), we combined actual bottom time with video from our dive team and the ROV and identified sections of intact framing and floor timbers that survived the blast. Even while swimming through the frames, it is hard to wrap your mind around just how large the ship would have been as the frames are HUGE. My dive buddy and I spent two, hour-long dives combing through the rubble looking for interesting artifacts that survived the blast. I spotted what I suspected were cannonballs and a double wooden block. Our Swedish friend Peter pointed out the rim of what appeared to be a ceramic jar, still fully intact except for one crack in the rim. After closer inspection, I was shocked to find that the jar was in fact made of wood!

As a maritime archaeology student, every class you take discusses the shipwrecks of the Baltic Sea and how special they are. Due to its unique temperature and salinity, wooden shipwrecks are preserved better here than anywhere else in the world. You marvel at photos of the Vasa and artifacts from the Kronan and dream that someday you may get to see and work on something that fascinating. These past weeks, that dream came true for me. I have seen the Vasa first hand and will never forget the moment I came through those museum doors. In Kalmar, I was able to spend hours marveling at the musical instruments, clothing, tools and personal belongings found on the Kronan. I dove to the cold, dark depths of the Baltic and laid my hands on a 17th century sailing ship still preserved and intact much like it was the day it went down. After everything we have seen and experienced, I just didnt think this trip could possibly get more excitingthat is until todaywhen I received a lesson in ship construction from Mr. Fred Hocker, director of research at Vasa, from INSIDE the ship. To see a ship from 1628 from the inside out is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. All of a sudden those large disarticulated framing sections seen on the Riksapplet started to make sense. I could now clearly recognize and compare construction aspects to what we saw in a pile of wood 40 feet below the surface to the lower decks and bilge of the Vasa. I recognized curves in the timbers and learned about a strengthening frame called a rider used to support the load of heavy guns. I could not grasp the size of the Riksapplet, as the knees and framing were very close to the same size as the Vasa.

Remember our interesting finds on Riksapplet? I asked Fred if he had ever seen a wooden jar on the Vasa or another ship like it. Immediately, his face lit up and he walked us to an exhibit on the next floor. There, inside the glass case, was an almost identical wooden jar to what I had seen underwater on Riksapplet four days earlier. Not only that, I was able to hold cannonballs found on the Vasa that were identical to the ones we had seen in the rubble. My archaeologists heart was full!

I wonder what today will bring on this amazing adventurewe are headed to Birka, the first city of Sweden and a huge Viking archaeological site. Stay Tuned!

Written by: Sarah Linden, Maritime Archaeologist

Posted: Fri, Jul 26, 2013

Dive Log Entry: Shipwreck Kostervraket

Our days here have consisted of towing the side scanning sonar in hopes of potential targets to identify as wrecks. Yesterday we towed the side scan in an area that our local contacts directed us to, saying that there was a well preserved wreck here with many artifacts still onboard. We put the side scan in the water a good distance from where we believed the wreck would be located so that we could do a search pattern covering a large distance. After the pre dive checks we deployed the side scan and instantly picked up a perfect image of a ship on the bottom. Could this be the wreck we are searching for? Surely not, it usually takes hours if not days to pin point a wreck location. We do several more passes over our target to confirm its size and position. The data returned by the side scan checks out with that supplied by our local contacts. Now there is only one thing left to do DIVE!

We get our team together to formulate a dive plan. After through discussion we determine our safest option is to send in a pair of divers and leave the other team members on board to maneuver our vessel and be available as surface support. This will be a tricky dive because the wreck is situated in a heavily trafficked area by other vessels. We will not be able to anchor our vessel directly over the wreck because we do not want to risk damaging it with our anchor. We mark the wreck with a surface marker. We get suited up and John brings the boat in close to the marker to deploy us on the site. He will hover the boat near the wreck making sure all other vessels avoid this area keeping it safe for us to surface away from boat traffic.

Travis Yates and I suit up to go in. We are well prepared with our dry suits, lighting and camera equipment. We enter the water and start our decent. The sunlight slowly fades away as we go down. Wait there is a dark spot. Are we on the wreck? I look at my depth gage. It reads 60 feet, only half way there. What we see is just the change in watercolor as we pass through a thermocline. It gets colder and darker as we continue our decent. We reach the bottom and a large wooden object comes into view. It is the stern of a ship. We spot the rudder and follow it up to the deck. We follow the rail down the starboard side. The original blocks are strewn across the deck, many of them still have the lines passed through them. As we come to midships we see the hole where the mast once protruded through the deck. Just forward of that we find several clay pipes nestled near a plate. Maybe this is where a sailor sat and repaired worn lines while underway. We continue on and see artifact after artifact scattered on the deck, untouched since this vessel sank more than 250 years ago. I see a small glimmer and look over to see a copper lid to some sort of container wedged amongst some boards. As we come to the bow I spot something I cant quite make out. I move in for a closer look. As I study the shape of the two things laying in front of me I suddenly realize they are in the shape of two feet. I am looking at pair of boots. They are deteriorated but you can easily see the soles still in good condition with the leather uppers sewn to them. The laces have long corroded away. My mind races, why are there a pair of boots on the bow? Did some sailor quickly shed these in order to jump overboard as the ship was going down? We drop over the rail at the bow to see the stem and bowsprit resting in the silt below. It appears to be undamaged. There is a gap in the hull where it was once attached. It has only dropped from the ship because the iron bolts that once attached it have rusted away. We follow it out and now spot the massive anchor below. It stands straight up off the bottom looking near perfect.

I look down at my dive computer. We are now in 120 feet of water and only have 2 minutes of bottom time remaining. I flash my light at Travis and give him the signal to start our accent. As we slowly work our way back up from depth I wonder what could have caused this vessel to sink? It is in the middle of a large body of water with nothing to run into. The ship doesnt appear have any major damage. Mystery still surrounds this well preserved wreck. We may never know why she went down or if the crew survived. We are now 20 feet from the surface. I inflate my safety marker and send it to the surface to let our crew know we have safely made it to our safety stop. We spend our 3 minutes at this depth processing what we have seen on our dive. We now ascend. As we break the surface we signal to the boat that we are OK and John brings the vessel around to pick us up. As soon as we are buoyant on the surface we remove our regulators. That was unbelievable. What an awesome wreck. We are giddy with excitement and try our best to relay what we have just seen to each other and the rest of the crew. This is why we have traveled thousands of miles, endured frigid water temperatures and strapped on nearly 100 lbs. of equipment to dive into darkness. Being able to open a time capsule and catch a glimpse of the past, an opportunity to relive the lives of sailors not so different from ourselves. This is why we chose to dive the Baltic!

Written by Thomas Mitchell
Quarter Master/Dive Ops
M/V Andromeda

Posted: Wed, Jul 24, 2013

Visby Day: As Reports By Johnathan Ishmael

Arrival to Visby came late in the evening. With running lights on and an exhausted crew, from the rolling and the pounding of a rough passage, there was great relief upon entering the breakwater, particularly to those who had a less than a pleasant crossing. Those that had a good crossing, had to be woken to man lines and fenders.

We tied up starboard side to, just on the edge of the inner harbor. After shutting everything down, Travis made quick order of a stir-fry dinner, which for some, was the only source of food that went in the normal direction all day. Not lacking for energy, Johnathan and Thomas dared a quick recon of the marina in the inner harbor of Visby. They found only one establishment open, complete with a rather sad plastic palm tree and a left-handed guitar player who played only slightly better than a karaoke singer with a sore throat. But they endured, and watched not less than fifty converse tennis shoe wearing Swedes fist pump to improvised Bryan Adams songs. Unsurprisingly, Tom and Johnathan were home early.

The next morning, which began at the crack of 9AM started with tours of the city by the crew, while Travis stayed behind for yet another Office Day. Jon and Sara, somehow still craving old historical memorabilia, went on to explore the numerous churches, ruins and the museum. Visibly offers a unique experience as it exemplifies urban design of the medieval era. The city, once the main port for import and export, bristled with commerce from ports in the Baltic and beyond. As a result, the main city was fortified to protect not only the people, but also the value of goods inside. Therefore, an ominous wall, constructed circa 1300AD, surrounds the old city to this day and is a reminder to how vulnerable points of commerce were to invasion. Within the walls, old churches, cemeteries and houses line narrow cobble stoned roads, often very narrow and steep. Similar to what is found on a hiking trail, the roads follow what must have been switchbacks to ascend the slope at a more gently angle, or rather, to slow down on what could be a rapid descent if wagon brakes failed. Most of the wall is still intact, thought over the centuries, Visibly suffered through invasion after invasion, whether by the Germans, Danes, Vikings or pirates, it often went through decades of being occupied.

Today, most of the architecture appears original and significant restorations have ensued or are in progress. There are stone archways and small narrow doors seemingly made for hobbits or trolls with small gardens behind wrought iron gates. Most of the buildings are now used for shops and cafes. A few boutique hotels occupy prime courtyard space and there is a nice restaurant that is built into the wall itself. Inside the city walls tourists can find handmade woolen goods and antiques, not to mention the full range of street food and patio taverns for the parched walker. It is all very nice, clean and scenic. Because it is limited to foot traffic in most places and vehicle traffic is rare on the narrow side streets, there is a constant hum of people walking and biking.

Thomas and Johnathan, having had their fill of old stuff, proceeded to go on an ice cream tasting tour of Visby by rental bike. They are happy to report that man can, alone, live on ice cream in Visby. Ice cream is to Visby what coffee is to Seattle, and no scoop was left unturned. Certainly, ice cream consumption is a local sport. During one particular sugar high, they set off along the seafront road where they found a large group of Swedes fist pumping in an outdoor concert that happens everyday after people get off the beach. A few miles down the road, still high on sugar they found a campground full of camper vans with beachfront property. The Swedes certainly know how to enjoy the few days of reasonable weather gifted to them in the summer. Feeling a little low on sugar, they raced back to turn in their bikes and enjoy a fine meal prepared by Jon.

Dinner complete, and tales of the day shared, the group trekked up the hill to attend a show they heard about earlier in the day from a man walking about on stilts, promoting the event.

The Fire Show, as it was hailed by a dreadlocked gentleman dressed like a jester, is held in another one of the many ancient churches located inside the walls of World Heritage Site that is Visby. Being inside the ancient church was amazing in itself, arches and buttresses reached into the evening light as the twilight glow shown through the slits where stained glassed once were.

The show itself is good. Lots of fire, twirling batons with flames, juggled fire sticks and flaming balls were thrown, tossed, dropped, handed off and exploded for the next forty minutes. A man who had been spitting fire out of mouth for 5yrs longer than he should have, offered background sound effects while telling the story of Myth of Fire in Swedish, set to a gothic sounding techno soundtrack.

After the show, we sauntered back to the boat, stopping to gawk at S/Y Felicita West, a 210ft private sailboat that arrived earlier. The marina was mainly filled with small sailboats full of vacationing families. The powerboat contingent was against the seawall and showed off accents lights and pumped techno music as the evening deepened.

We boarded M/V Andromeda and promptly fired up the main engine and made for sea. Another night passage to avoid burning any more daylight than necessary, as we headed north, to return to the Stockholm Archipelago to continue our underwater archeology and scuba adventures.

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