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SCUBA-L  August 2001, Week 4

SCUBA-L August 2001, Week 4

Subject:

Re: fwd: CA Wreck Divers burn PADI cards

From:

Simon L Hartley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scuba diving discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 28 Aug 2001 17:38:47 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (108 lines)

Marv,

A couple of months ago I completed the AIMA/NAS Part I course in Maritime
Archaeology.  At present I'm undertaking some work (literature review and
preliminary surveys) on a local wreck site.  Did a video of the site the
other week and a basic site map.  In February I'm down in South Australia
for a 15 day field school in Maritime Archaeology.  I'm hoping to use this
work toward AIMA/NAS Part II certification.

Reason I mention this is that the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) in the
United Kingdom and the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA)
offer training to recreational divers in basic survey techniques and
archaeological principles.  I would imagine that there are affiliated
groups in other countries.  By undertaking this kind of training divers can
make a major contribution by documenting wrecks and other artefacts.  Many
government agencies are very supportive of involvement by recreational
divers, as you say resources for these sort of studies are limited and help
is usually very welcome.

As you suggest, simply removing an artefact from a wreck site without
properly documenting the relationship between the artefact and other
elements of the site destroys the intrinsic value of that artefact.  For
example, if a person shows you a peice of rock you may not immediately
recognise that that peice of rock is any different from any other rock you
might find lying on the ground.  If they then tell you that the rock was
taken from a wall built by the Romans over 1500 years ago and show you a
diagram of the wall and where the rock fitted in, the intrinsic value of
the rock is restored.  The rock is in context.  You might be able to
discern something about how the orginal wall was constructed, were rocks
lovingly shaped into blocks or simply piled up one on top of the other?
What does this tell you about the people who originally built the wall and
their movivation for building it?  Did they have an advanced knowledge of
architecture?  Were they striving to produce an architectural marvel or
just rushing to construct a solid rampart to defend against rampaging hords
of barbarians?  Archaeology aims to explain, providing insights into past
lives, choices, motivations and ultimately developing a framework for
future endeavour (those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are
destined to repeat them).

Without understanding and documenting the context in which an artefact is
found  any big of scrap metal, wood or porcelain brought up from a wreck
site is just another  piece of junk cluttering up your house (or a museum).
 Also, by removing the artefact from its resting place you are denying
another diver an interesting and rewarding experience.  I personally don't
see the point in collecting artefacts unless they are in imminent danger of
loss or destruction.  In that situation I'd want to document them properly
first using appropriate techniques, or better still find a professional
maritime archaeologist or museum who wants to do the work (and help them do
it).  Keeping an artefact to myself would seem rather selfish to me when so
many other people could derive pleasure and value from it in situ or in a
collection.

Most materials will degrade rapidly when removed from the sea after long
periods of emersion.  While metals and other materials are in place on the
sea floor they are usually protected by concretions that prevent or
minimise further degradation.  Once these concretions are removed the
process of corrosion begins again.  Wood and organic material doesn't
usually survive well and often all that is left is a matrix which will
break down if it is taken out of the water and dried.  Woods and other
organic material, metal, pottery, infact most material retrieved from wreck
sites need to be specially treated to prevent rapid decay.  Again in most
cases this is something I'd leave to folks who know what their doing and
have the resources.  Although we do have a couple of metal artefacts (an
anchor and brass compass cover) in electrolyte baths at work here.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is a lot more enjoyment and
value for the individual and society as a whole in treating artefacts and
wrecks properly.  Divers can learn basic survey techniques and undertake
projects which are both personally enjoyable and potentially benefitial in
the understanding of vessels and the lives and motivations of people who
sailed on them.

Cheers,

At 12:06 27/08/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>Probably a large argument of trophy seeking wreck divers, is that artifacts
>inevitably deteriorate, and taking them from a wreck puts them in a state
>of preservation, albeit in someone's home.  However the removal of
>artifacts without archeological-style documentation destroys much of the
>value of the artifact. In wrecks of major historical value, often of great
>age, it would be a substantial loss [ such as the recovery of giant Chinese
>trade ships in Brunei waters.]  Professional underwater archeologists are
>limited in time, funds, and energy, and sport divers utlitizing their own
>resources, and taking their own risks, can collectively salvage wrecks in
>shorter time.  However, without limits on the methodology of their salvage
>operations, and whose motive is primarily for their own amusement or
>personal gain [ treasure hunting]  wrecks of historical value are destroyed
>and lost to a whole generation of other divers, within the lifespan of an
>undersea wreck.


Simon

Simon L Hartley
EnvSM Website Coordinator\First Year Course Coordinator
Associate Lecturer
School of Environmental Science and Management
Southern Cross University
P.O. Box 157
Lismore NSW, Australia 2480
Ph: (02) 66203251 or (61 66) 203 251
Fax:(02) 66212669
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/esm/staff/pages/shartley/

http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/esm/

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