Future Welsh maritime and coastal research priorities under review; English maritime and marine research framework consultation opens for business; Questions asked in the Lords about the protection of heritage beyond territorial waters; Criticism for English Heritage over Purton hulks; BBC History of the World Project; Mary Rose dog at Crufts; Baltic finds; Odyssey posts 2009 financial results; Self-employed diver tax status; Commercial diver medicals


Future Welsh maritime and coastal research priorities under review 

The Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales is under review in 2010 and you can leave comments on the existing document on the Maritime and Coastal page of the project website.

The brief for the review can be found at http://www.archaeoleg.org.uk/pdf/briefforchairs.pdf and the next meeting of the steering group is on 18 March at the RCHAMW in Aberystwyth. 

English maritime and marine research framework consultation opens for business 

Working drafts of some of the framework’s resource assessment chapters will shortly go online for consultation. The consultation period will continue for the next six weeks until 26th April. 

Further chapters will be added when ready and you are very much encouraged to comment. 

A one day conference to present the resource assessment findings is being held on 1st May in Southampton. The conference is open to anyone involved in the maritime, marine and coastal archaeology of England and is free. 

Questions asked in the Lords about the protection of heritage beyond territorial waters 

Lord Howarth of Newport recently tabled a question in the House of Lords asking the UK government what plans it has to strengthen protection of cultural heritage assets in waters beyond 12 nautical miles offshore. 

Criticism for English Heritage over Purton hulks 

The campaigning organisation Friends of Purton continues to claim that English Heritage is “not interested in the slightest” in the legal protection of the Purton hulks. The group, which has secured the support of the local MP, hopes to meet Culture Minister Margaret Hodge to press its case. EH has responded by saying that it has published an agreed statement of significance for the hulks as part of the process of reviewing their status and points out that the site is already protected to some extent under environmental legislation. 

Your MAG Blog editor used to live in the area and has been told by a local photographer who has photographed the site for many years that the present remains of the wooden hulks represent no more than a rump of what was visible 30 and even 20 years ago. Until relatively recently the site had very little archaeological profile, either nationally or within Gloucestershire, and it was perhaps better known by the county’s vandals, who were certainly not above stealing timber to burn on bonfires or even setting the hulks themselves on fire. 

BBC History of the World Project 

MAG member response to the notice circulated last week about a public lecture on one of the objects featured in this project, Poole Museum’s logboat, demonstrates just how strong the maritime involvement in this project is. Some of the other maritime themed objects featured include: 

Mary Rose dog at Crufts 

The skeleton of a dog recovered from the wreck site of the Mary Rose has gone on display at the annual Crufts dog show in the UK. 

The dog has been named ‘Hatch’ because it was found near a hatch door leading to the carpenter’s cabin. 

Baltic finds 

Twelve new wreck sites have been located east of the Swedish island of Gotland during survey work in advance of a gas pipeline being laid across the Baltic. The discoveries have been widely reported: 







Odyssey posts 2009 financial results 

Controversial American company Odyssey Marine Exploration, which specializes in the salvage of historic shipwrecks, has announced a net loss of $18.6 million dollars in 2009 as opposed to $24.8 million in 2008. Odyssey describes itself as being “pleased” with the 2009 results. 

Earlier in 2010 Odyssey announced that it had entered into a two year salvage agreement with the UK government for the cargo of the ss Gairsoppa, a cargo vessel torpedoed and sunk in deep water in the North Atlantic in 1941. The Gairsoppa is believed to have been carrying a valuable cargo of silver. The Odyssey announcement suggests that it knows roughly where the wreck should be but has not actually found it yet. 

Odyssey appears to have encountered serious difficulties in its business activities in the last few years. Despite concerted efforts, the company’s attempts to identify the wreck of HMS Sussex and recover the valuable cargo they believe is present on the site have stalled due to Spanish opposition. It has also been bested so far in the US courts by the Spanish government over a large quantity of coins recovered in secret from its so-called ‘Black Swan’ wreck. In addition, its discovery of the 1744 wreck of the Victory in the English Channel has not so far brought the co-operation it has sought from the UK government and doubt has been cast on the credibility of claims that the vessel was carrying valuable cargo. Nevertheless, despite a history of annual losses it does not appear to have exhausted the patience of its investors. The Gairsoppa may represent another opportunity for the company to improve its financial position. 

Self-employed diver tax status 

Members working for companies and other organisations who sometimes employ divers on a supposedly self-employed basis rather than on PAYE should bear in mind that the Association of Diving Contractors reports that its members are continuing to have difficulties with HMRC in this respect. 

These members should also be aware that the HSE has been writing to diving contractors with regard to the extent of their responsibilities for providing PPE for self-employed divers. The ADC reports that where divers choose to provide key aspects of PPE themselves then an amount of £8.50 is commonly included as part of the day rate. 

Commercial diver medicals 

Whilst we are on the subject of diving at work, members undertaking diving projects underwater may be interested and not a little surprised to note that the age profile of divers issued with HSE diving medicals and therefore at least theoretically diving at work in 2009 was as follows: 

Under 20    94

20-30         1199

30-40         1979

40-50         1966

50-60         877

60-70         139

70-80         5

80-90         2 (!) 

It would be interesting to know how different the age profile of archaeologists and other scientists diving at work is, although anecdotally it would seem likely that most if not all of us are in the 20-50 bracket. Does anybody know anyone who is older or younger?


2 thoughts on “Future Welsh maritime and coastal research priorities under review; English maritime and marine research framework consultation opens for business; Questions asked in the Lords about the protection of heritage beyond territorial waters; Criticism for English Heritage over Purton hulks; BBC History of the World Project; Mary Rose dog at Crufts; Baltic finds; Odyssey posts 2009 financial results; Self-employed diver tax status; Commercial diver medicals

  1. Dave Parham says:

    MAG readers may be interested to know that Odyssey Marine Exploration has experienced a net loss in every fiscal year since their inception (the corporation formed on March 5, 1986) except for 2004 (when they made just under £3.5million). They have made losses of over £67million in the last 5 years, exceeding their current market capitalization of £56million. More info can be found at http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/798528/000119312509050880/d10k.htm#toc36519_3

  2. Dear MAG Blog Editor
    Regarding the piece on the Purton Hulks can I commend both you and the MAG for standing up and being counted in what is surely a national scandal. As you state the Purton Hulks are indeed a mere shadow of their former selves despite English Heritage having a statute responsibility for the U.K. foreshore nautica since 1989

    Regarding the Statement of Significance, I am enraged that such a cheap shot has been taken by those desperate to protect healthy salaries. Furthermore and despite being asked to comment during the documents innitial draft, I write to advise that I personally issued two pages of ‘points of fact’ information as requested. Sadly English Heritage has deliberately pushed through its desired interpretation of Significance to suit whilst wilfully disregarding some 12 years of in-depth research.

    In light of this, I for one have duly contacted English Heritage, to issue the Friends of Purtons strongest reservations to the documents content and as a result, I advised English Heritage in 2009 that we will have no part in its wistful attempt to dumb down our understanding of this unique maritime collection. As such could i formally advise your readership the despite our continued desire to work along English Heritage since 2006, this request has habitually been denied, all bar a piecemeal attempt to stifle criticism in the form of hurried site visit and failed promises.

    Further I can state that both eminent maritime historians, David R Macgregor and Graham Farr were instrumental in bringing this collection to the attention of the appropriate authorities as early as 1952 and yet the site continues to remain unprotected against arson, trophy hunters and vandals to this day.

    I therefore once again repeat shame on you Dr Thirley, shame on you Dr Beecham and shame on you English Heritage, as it is now considered that a greater quantity of the Purton Hulks are held in dusty garages and personal collections or carted away to heat homes or light BBQ.

    A case in question, the very last remaining examples of Jonathon Fells patented iron knee lie unprotected, under researched and at RISK on the windswept shores of the River Severn.

    Time and tide waits for no man least of all English Heritage, so let this piece act as a chilling reminder to archaeological snobbery and never let it be said they where not told.

    Yours sincerely

    Paul Barnett
    Friends of Purton

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