Saturday, 25 June 2011

And all the lines go green...

Thanks to great effort from everybody all of our data is now into Site Recorder, and all features have come out to the right places!

Sketches have been drawn up and all the data collated, now it is time to enjoy a final beer and the long Scottish evening before we all head home tomorrow!

The end approaches

Firstly let me say sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of days, we will of course be furiously blogging today to get everybody up to date with our activities up here in Lochaline (rest assured we have been very busy on site and the slight lack of blogs has nothing to do with not having anything to say!)

With the control points all measured in on the site the real survey work could begin in earnest on Wednesday as little orange tags (to which all marine life so far seems to have a terrible aversion) began to appear all over the site. The more dives we did on site the more those lumps of concretion began to take shape as iron straps, knees and pipes. Although for some the description remained 'amorphous lump of concretion, wood and slate' without much hope of further information! And Claire and Piotr who thought they had got away lightly being assigned an area to surevy with three unpositioned features from the 2010 season slowly began to realise that almost everything around them was infact some part of the ships structure and not rock and seabed as it might first appear.

Never to be accused of being too hard a task master the afternoon saw a break from the archaeology with a trip to Oban, supposedly to fuel the boat but more importantly to dive the Breda and for a fish and chip supper.

With the team fully rested after an afternoon off, on Thursday we were able to turn our attentions back to the John Preston and to those bright orange tags, with feature numbers now in the 30s there was no rest as we continued to survey parts of the ships structure into our newly established control point network.

Thursday evening saw us hit Site Recorder in earnest as we attempt to relate our new network and features to the work carried out in 2009 and 10. After a great team effort we final managed to get all the control points in place (even that keel which appeared to have moved around the site...) As one by one the features we had measured thus far began to be entered we slowly built a list of tasks for our last day on site.

To make up for the efforts of the team staying up til midnight processing data and writing up dive logs, we began our last day with a leisuely start and a dive on the Thesis, a shipwreck that looks like a shipwreck with a fairly intact hull, a few swim throughs in the hold and an engine and boiler still on deck.

After an early lunch we headed back out to the now very familar site of the John Preston for our final dives, collecting the data highlighted by the previous evenings processing session, surveying in those final features tagged and taking photographs to add to our archive.

Over the last couple of days we have collected a huge amount of data so today we will be adding all of this to the archive, finishing off dive logs and hopefully getting our site plan together before we leave tomorrow.

Thanks to the team for all their hard work this week and watch this space for a few photos and a site plan just to demonstrate what we have acheived!!!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Measure for Measure

Well, having cried off diving for the previous two days of heavy hard work shifting concrete blocks around - purely coincidental of course, as the rest of the volunteers have noted - I have defied my throat and chest issues today and joined the dive team. The fact that they have had two days of glorious sunshine on the boat until I stepped onto it has hardly helped my reputation as a good luck charm either... Still, despite the soaking it hasn't been enough to dampen my spirits, it's been a joy to get wet at last!

And now that said concrete control control points are in place, and also handily labelled with bright numbered balls and markers attached expertly by swat team Steve & Steve, the measuring began in earnest today, sometimes by overlapping teams - resulting in some great tape measure macrame. The floating numbered baubles were a very welcome addition to finding the control points quickly, especially to me with my two days of 'catching up' to do trying to orientate myself with the site, and seeing my way through the gloom that Mary and I created with our 'hand fanning' investigation of the timbers to the section above the keel, which we think may be framing timbers and will be sketched in due course...

There were also other new features located, tagged and measured by team Peter and Claire, and team Richard and Daniel, including concreted iron objects and hawse pipe. Personally, the team comprising of Mary and I took full measurements for the metal 'knee' at the Eastern end of the keel after my initial orientation, and tied it into the rest of the web of points created so far.

We were also treated to the sight on our return trip to shore of around four or so harbour porpoises - if my dodgy marine life ID is correct - arching gracefully in and out of the water in a way that none of us could ever hope to achieve! It's an important note that although our primary concerns in this project are archaeological, we also have a wealth of natural life living in and around wrecks which give us plenty more to look at and consider.

The afternoon, however, led us away from the John Preston following a very illuminating and enthusing lecture from Colin Martin in collaboration with his wife Paula, regarding his work on the Duart point Wreck. It is  attributed as being  the remains of the 'Swan', a warship under the jurisdiction of Cromwell's forces, wrecked  off the coast of Duart Castle in the 17th Century after a violent storm.

As she is a protected wreck, we were very privileged to have the opportunity to have a look at her for ourselves. Playing hide and seek for the canons, anchor and ballast amongst the kelp - and what I saw was most definitely ballast from the wreck and not just a pile of stones that could have been anywhere, my budding archaeologist senses assured me - was great fun after a visit to Duart Castle itself, a further source of historical sources.

Hannah Lawson

Monday, 20 June 2011

Day 2 - Dancing with Concrete.

The second day of diving brought us close to actually completing the dance with control points and beginning the survey proper.

The group gathered at the pier around 9-ish waiting for the Sound Diver to arrive. We waited a few minutes as the pier was occupied by a local coat for local people - fishermen by the look of it. Despite the brief delay to ropes - off - perhaps 9:30 rather than 9, the first dive team entered the water at a quater to 10 with two fully filled 15l cyllinders and too much ambition. Hence after 30 minutes the 3 remaining control points (2,3,4) were in position and everything seemed ready for measurement.

Despite the time taken by debrief from the group of divers, the turn-over was less than 15 minutes and the second team moved in to inspect the lines of sight. However, on the swim-through it turned out that one of the control points needed re-positioning. Luckily by now the site was full of kit floating around and finding a lift bag and a cyllinder to fill it was not a problem - especially as the visibility was improving during the day. Third team to go in prior lunch was effectively the site directors inspection, which lead to the morning's first team correcting the position of CP 1 after lunch. This was followed by checking the lines of sight and by the end of the day the bits and pieces of information coming together seem to suggest that all the controls are in place and to not require further moves. This in turn means that tomorrow, ie. Tuesday the 21st we have a fair chance of starting on data collection.

Due to low tide by the time the day finished around 4-ish, the Sound Diver had to drop us off by the pier of a sand mine. The structure is a must see for anyone interested in Scotland's industrial heritage, as well as for those of us who suffer from an excess of post-apocalyptic fiction in their lives. Whichever angle is taken, one remains sure - little islands of rusted steel enveloped between the salt water and the green, sometimes forested, slopes, give a very special flavour to wandering down the west coast of Scotland.

The second day left the everyone red-faced - the sun is much more common on the West Coast than one would expect. If this weather continues Mediterranean sun-tan is guaranteed. Although only on the faces, as the wind on the water makes sure everyone is well protected from the adverse effects of exposure to UV rays.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

1st Day (19th June)

What a difference 2 days make, 48 little hours.

Well after having rubbish weather on the drive up, Lochaline today was a cracker, sunshine, flat seas, even the vis wasn't that bad (2-3 meters), as I understand it the South and East coasts didn't fare quite so well today, at least those who got blown out now know where all their sun went.

First dive was an orientation dive on the Wreck, dropping down the shot into the gloom me and Daniel (my buddy) spied the keel first, we swam up it towards the bows before doubling back and investigating some of the other features (see my intro course wasn't all wasted),although some of them were tagged I couldn't make out the writting on the map that we had taped to our slates so it was only once on the surface that we could confirm that where we thought we were, we then swam towards the stern, finding this time somethign that looked like it might be part of the wreck but it was untagged and my buddy was getting low on air (I was on a twinset so I had loads) so we decided to head back, after about 35 minutes or so we started our ascent.

After a quick return to the dive centre for some lunch we had a briefing on the first set of tasks we had to do, putting in the permanent control points, or at least dropping them near the site, they are made from 25l yellow tubs filled with scrap iron and concrete and take 2 to comfortably lift them on the surface, so hopefully once in place they shouldn't move.
The previous dive one of the teams had placed a "baby" shot using a reel and a small lift bag a short way from the rest of the wreck where the falling control points wouldn't land on anything that we were there to study/preserve!
After much manoeuvring by the boast each of the heavy yellow tubs were pushed over the side at the "baby" shot point, and we prepared to dive.

After a briefing on using lift bags (a few of ushad never used them before) me and
"the other Stephen" kitted up to jump in first, we looked a little like the "Evolution of diving" him in his ABLJ (including suicide bottle - I resisted the urge to play Dive Buddy Polaris), drysuit without a dump valve and regs older than me (well maybe), Me in twinset + wing with HID canister torch, but all of our kit got the job done with is the important bit.

We ascended down the main shot with the current running a fair bit carrying the lift bag and a 12l with an airgun for inflating the lift bag then fought against the current and made our way to the baby shot. "Bugger where the hell are the control points?", after a second or 2 of scratching heads we realised that that the current must have moved the liftbag on the end on the baby shot a fair ways from the weight at the bottom so dropped the cylinder and headed off in the direction of the current, this was the last bit of easy finning we got!

After some swimming in circles (and almost climbing up the cliff out of the water) we eventually spied one of the big yellow shapes coming out of the gloom, great, ok how many have we got here, 1, 2, 3, 4, erm 5, excellent all 6, all in a neat group. (The other) Stephen swims off towards where we think the baby shot (and the inflation cylinder) must be.

Once there he picked up the cylinder swam off to set-up the lift bag on the first control point whilst I proceed to slowly drag the "baby" shot to the location of the pile of control points to make the life a bit easier for the following divers (whilst the reel and liftbag at the end where quite baby, the shot itself wasn't).

After some trouble with the valve on the lift bag we finally managed to slowly "walk" first control point into place, with all the searching and dragging of stuff about against the current we were both on minimum gas and so we swam back to the shot for our ascent.

After we were up and we briefed the next pair of divers (Rich and Daniel) about what they would find down there they jumped in, unfortunately because of some problems with a mask and getting the lift bag filled, they didn't manage to get anymore in place (me and the other Stephen having already bagsied the closest one already ;-).

So the third and final pair went in, Claire and Peter, of course having a women on the team meant that they managed to get 2 control points in their correct places (although apparently not in the places that Claire thought they were), having been slightly disorientated due to the silt kicked up moving the heavy concrete and iron points, they sent up an SMB and ascended on that, as an indication of the strength of the current they were probably 50m away from the wreck they eventually surfaced after their safety stop!

So then back to the Dive Centre for tea and medals!

2 dives on tyre gas one of which involved lugging heavy things around and the fantastic dinner at the centre I'll certainly sleep well tonight!

Stephen Elves

Day Zero (Saturday 19 June)

Today is the first day of the rest of you Life blog.

Having driven to Lochaline the day before (8 1/2 hours, rain from Glasgow onwards!) today was my "Into to NAS course", even public schools could not boast teacher/students ratios like this I had 3 tutors running me through the course for me on my tod.
I'm going to be lazy here and point you to this post from last years blog for what it involved (what? I am blogging 2 days worth - 3 if you count me mentioning the drive up!).

Stephen Elves

Monday, 6 June 2011


Welcome to our blog for the 2011 Sound of Mull fieldschool.

Our new control points for the John Preston site have been made, thanks to Charles Pochin and we are now getting ready to head back to Lochaline next week.

During this year's fieldschool we will be placing the new control points around the site and aiming to continue with the survey work from 2010. This will involve Direct Survey Method, planning frames, sketches and photographs aiming to create a more complete site plan and dive guide for future visitors.

Follow how we get on....