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Displaying items by tag: Wrecks

Dutch Inspectorate and Cultural Heritage Agency award contract to the Maritime Observatory to continue monitoring important underwater heritage sites

The Information and Heritage Inspectorate and Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), both part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, have contracted the Maritime Observatory to monitor important underwater maritime heritage sites in the Waddenzee or Dutch territorial North Sea.

The Maritime Observatory (MO), a British organisation, uses satellite technology, artificial intelligence and local intelligence sources to monitor twelve shipwreck sites, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century in Dutch territorial waters. The project follows on from a previous wreck monitoring programme undertaken within the International Programme for Maritime Heritage of the RCE and executed by the MO in 2019, focusing on seven Dutch shipwrecks located in domestic waters and overseas in Belgium, UK, and Malaysia. By collaborating with the MO, the Dutch government is intent on preventing the looting of important sites for their artefacts and metals and for the monitoring of any wreck that could potentially suffer an environmental issue with fuel oil or ordnance due to human activity.

Monitoring underwater heritage sites at risk

The Maritime Observatory (MO) has harnessed the growing capabilities of the commercial satellite sector to create a hub for monitoring the maritime and marine domain. Its purpose is to actively monitor and share information among relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, to protect wreck sites and deter illegal activity at sea. By combining archaeological expertise and specialist knowledge with advanced technologies, the MO enables effective monitoring, enforcement and compliance for the protection of maritime heritage sites and disseminates relevant information to the appropriate authorities.

A diver monitors a wreck site Photo: Michael PittsA diver monitors a wreck site Photo: Michael Pitts

The aim of the project is to keep an eye on the wrecks and better understand which sites are at risk and how they are threatened. This is vital to enable the Inspectorate, the RCE and other agencies and authorities to take timely measures and collaborate on the protection of these vulnerable heritage sites.

The Maritime Observatory is a partnership between the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) and OceanMind. MAST the global experts in underwater maritime heritage joined forces with OceanMind, a not-for-profit organisation which harnesses the growing capabilities of the space sector to provide monitoring of human activity on the oceans.

Jessica Berry, MAST CEO, said: “Maritime heritage and the marine environment must not be studied in isolation from wider issues of maritime security. This exciting project will continue to help the Dutch Inspectorate be better able to understand human activity at these sites and take the right enforcement actions where necessary”

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist at RCE said “we are pleased to have been able to set up the collaboration with the Inspectorate in the protection of the underwater cultural heritage, evolving from the work done between 2019 and 2021 with the Maritime Observatory. It is important to continue to provide actionable intelligence on human activity at these culturally important undersea sites, in order for us to protect this heritage.”

Published in Diving
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A team of scientists led by Dr Ruth Plets, School of Environmental Sciences at Ulster University, aboard the Marine Institute's Celtic Voyager research vessel has revealed detailed images of World War I shipwrecks in the Irish Sea.

The team set out to capture the highest resolution acoustic data possible of WWI shipwrecks lost in the Irish Sea, using a new multi-beam system (EM2040) on board the RV Celtic Voyager to get the best data ever acquired over these
wrecks.

"We were able to capture the most detailed images of the entirety of the wrecks ever. Some of the wrecks, which are too deep to be dived on, have not been seen in 100 years. So this is the first time we can examine what has happened to them, during sinking and in the intervening 100 years, and try to predict their future preservation state," explained Dr Plets.

Among the shipwrecks surveyed were the SS Chirripo, which sank in 1917 off Black Head (Co. Antrim) after she struck a mine; the SS Polwell, which was torpedoed in 1918 northeast of Lambay Island; and the RMS Leinster, which sank in 1918 after being torpedoed off Howth Head when over 500 people lost their lives – this was the greatest single loss in the Irish Sea.

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute welcomed the achievements of the survey, supported by the competitive ship-time programme: "The multidisciplinary team is making an important contribution to understanding and protecting our maritime heritage and to our ability to manage our marine resource wisely".

Explaining how the survey was carried out Dr Plets said, "We moved away from traditional survey strategies by slowing the vessel right down to allow us to get many more data points over the wreck, with millions of sounding per
wreck."

"The detail is amazing as we can see things such as handrails, masts, the hawse pipe (where the anchor was stored) and hatches. Some of the vessels have split into sections, and we can even see details of the internal structure. With the visibility conditions in the Irish Sea, no diver or underwater camera could ever get such a great overview of these wrecks."

As well as acoustic imaging, the team collected samples from around the wreck to see what its potential impact is on the seabed ecology. Sediment samples were also taken for chemical analysis to determine if these wrecks cause a
concern for pollution.

The project is carried out to coincide with WWI centenary commemorations, noted Dr Plets, "We often forget the battles that were fought in our seas; more emphasis is put on the battles that went on in the trenches. However, at least 2,000 Irishmen lost their lives at sea, but unlike on land, there is no tangible monument or place to commemorate because of the location on the bottom of the sea,"

"In the Republic of Ireland there is a blanket protection of all wrecks older than 100 years, so all these will become protected over the next few years.

To manage and protect these sites for future generations, we need to know their current preservation state and understand the processes that are affecting the sites," Dr Plets further stated.

The next step for the team is to use the data collected to create 3D models which can be used for archaeological research, heritage management and dissemination of these otherwise inaccessible sites to the wider public.

"There is so much data, it will take us many months if not years, to work it all up. Some of the wrecks are in a very dynamic environment and we are planning to survey these vessels again next year to see if there is a change, especially after the winter storms. That will give the heritage managers a better idea if any intervention measures need to be taken to protect them," said Dr Plets.

"These data could well signal a new era in the field of maritime archaeology. We hope it will inspire a new generation of marine scientists, archaeologists and historians to become involved. Above all, we want to make the general public, young and old, aware of the presence of such wrecks, often located only miles off their local beach."

The research survey was supported by the Marine Institute, through its Ship-Time Programme, funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

The diverse team included maritime archaeologists Rory McNeary, from the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, and Kieran Westley, from the University of Southampton; geologists Rory Quinn and Ruth Plets, both Ulster University; biologists Annika Clements, from Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, and Chris McGonigle, from Ulster University; Ulster University Marine Science student, Mekayla Dale; as well as hydrographer Fabio Sacchetti from the Marine Institute who works on Ireland's national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR, run jointly with the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Published in Marine Science
Tagged under

The Heritage Council of Ireland is to face a 47% cut in funding following the budget's announcement on Tuesday. The large-scale reduction in funding the statutory body will decimate the heritage sector and threatens the closure of many small enterprises that are dependent on it. The cut is on top of a 30% fall in funds introduced during this year.

The council is charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland's national heritage which also includes seascapes, wrecks and the inland waterways.

"We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate nature of the cuts to the heritage sector. While the heritage sector recognises that it must share the burden of the cuts required to tackle the country's economic crisis, the cuts announced last Tuesday are completely disproportionate in comparison to other Departmental cuts." said Michael Starrett, chief executive of the Heritage Council.

"As a result, the future of heritage initiatives nationwide which have created hundreds of jobs, empowered local communities and enhanced the value of heritage as a tourism resource, are severely threatened", he added.

According to the Heritage Council, such cuts will have a detrimental impact on the national heritage and the quality of tourism offered. In 2009, over three million overseas visitors engaged in cultural/historical and spent an estimated €1.9 billion.  Funding will now no longer be available to protect and manage the nations heritage.

For information on the Heritage Council's marine publications section click here and on inland waterways logon to www.heritagecouncil.ie/inland_waterways/

 

Published in Coastal Notes
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