Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Historic Vessel Conservation

 National Historic Ships UK (NHS-UK), in conjunction with the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC), is delighted to announce it is now able to offer a new and unique Level 3 BTEC in the Conservation of Historic Vessels.  Available from January 2014 at IBTC’s Lowestoft hub, the course has been designed to offer practical hands-on training in the specialist skills required to build and conserve traditional wooden boats.  In order to give the course the best possible start in its first year, NHS-UK are offering two £1000 bursaries** to be awarded in conjunction with IBTC.


The course is open to those already learning traditional skills in the maritime sector, and could be used to enhance an apprenticeship in boatbuilding or marine engineering.  It is also available to experienced shipwrights and boatbuilders, managers of conservation projects or private vessel owners and enthusiasts. The course consists of seven modules which can be taken concurrently, or spread over a period of time.  It is the only course of its kind available in Britain and follows the development of NHS-UK’s three volume guidance publication ‘Understanding Historic Vessels’ – which has been designed to cover the key principles behind the history and conservation of historic vessels.


Commenting on the announcement, Martyn Heighton, Director of National Historic Ships UK, said: “The course has been designed to bridge the gap between boatbuilding, or marine engineering courses, and the specialist knowledge required to plan and implement any historic vessel conservation strategy.  We are very pleased to be able to start offering it and excited to see the reception it receives.”


In 2010, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded £17million to 54 projects through its ‘Skills for the Future programme’; set up to fund work-based training in a wide range of skills.  In partnership with the Canal & River Trust, NHS-UK was one of the successful applicants receiving an initial award of £110,000, with a further grant increase of £100,600 in 2013.  With match-funding from the Headley Trust, they went forward to develop the BTEC Diploma in Historic Vessel Conservation as a legacy for their training scheme, Keeping History Afloat.



For further enquiries and enrolment information, contact Andy Barratt or Nat Wilson at IBTC at ibtc2@btconnect.com

For further press information contact:

Eloise Jakeman or Kate O’Sullivan at ADPR

eloise@adpr.co.uk/ kate@adpr.co.uk or call 01460 241641



Storm exposes shipwreck near Bamburgh Castle

The wreck is only visible for around a few hours a day either side of low water in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland – and first appeared in June.
Since then a team of archaeologists has been studying its timber to try to find out more about the vessel – and tests have now revealed the wood used to build the ship was felled in around 1768.

Read more here

IFA call for papers extension

The call for papers for the IfA conference has been extended to the 8th November. MAG in conjunction with the artefacts group are running a joint seminar called “Creating Research Communities: bridging the gap between sectors”. This session aims to approach research from two different ways firstly considering how different groups can intergrate to ensure that research occurs, and secondly considering how when research has been done it is accessible, and can be used and intergrated by other users. Some excellent maritime papers have been submitted, but there is still room for more. A full abstract of the session (S3) is available at http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/IfA2014-Call-for-papers.pdf

If you are interested please contact katy.bell@winchester.ac.uk by the 8th November to discuss.

MMO investigates OME

A US marine salvage company is being investigated by Britain’s marine watchdog for allegedly exploring the wreck of a 276-year-old British naval warship without permission. Odyssey Marine Exploration hailed the discovery of the HMS Victory, the predecessor to Nelson’s famous flagship, as one of the most important maritime finds ever when they announced its discovery in the English Channel in 2008. It sank in 1744 with Admiral Sir John Balchen on board, and it was thought the wreck could well be carrying bullion and bronze cannon worth more than £600m.

But the discovery of the vessel has sparked controversy, with archaeologists and descendants of the 1,000 men who died, saying any attempt to recover gold or artefacts for profit is wrong and “distasteful”.

The row has taken a further twist after it was revealed that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the UK’s marine watchdog, is investigating allegations that Odyssey explored the wreck without a licence last year. Investigators are understood to be studying footage from a TV documentary filmed on an Odyssey vessel that seems to show the discovery of a human skull in mud on the sea floor. MMO is “currently undertaking an investigation into alleged activity in relation to the site of HMS Victory”.

It is understood that one of the issues being considered is whether this activity required a licence.

Under maritime law, all naval vessels lost at sea are considered to have “sovereign immunity” and cannot be disturbed without governmental approval. But following the discovery of the Victory, the wreck was given a different status by the Ministry of Defence by being “gifted” to a new charity, the Maritime Heritage Foundation (MHF).

Founded by Lord Lingfield, a descendent of Admiral Balchen, following the wreck’s discovery, the MHF negotiated an agreement with Odyssey to explore the wreck and potentially recover artefacts including the ship’s bronze cannons. The Victory may have also carried gold coin bullion worth up to £620m. Odyssey is to receive the equivalent of 80 per cent of the value of recovered bullion and 50 per cent of the value of artefacts such as cannons.

But, under the terms of the original agreement between the MHF and the Government, any work to explore the site by disturbing silt or digging trenches can only be carried out once ministers have approved a programme in keeping with Britain’s obligations under a Unesco underwater archaeology agreement.

Experts advising ministers agreed that the site, already raided by rogue Dutch salvers who stole a cannon, may need preservation by raising to the surface some artefacts already dragged by fishing vessels.

In a letter to David Cameron, Richard Temple West, a descendant of Admiral Balchen’s daughter, said: “We appreciate that HMS Victory is an important historic wreck, but we feel this very fact, coupled with the fact that she is a both a grave and memorial, makes it entirely inappropriate that she should be subject to a commercial salvage contract.”

The project still awaits ministerial approval. In an 2012 email to the Ministry of Defence, Lord Lingfield wrote that the MHF’s scientific advisers had approved the “dusting of mobile surface sediment” on the wreck site as well as ensuring that cannon had been “prepared for lifting”. In a second email to the MoD, Lord Lingfield wrote: “PLEASE could ministers give the go-ahead soon, we really need the summer time to carry out careful archaeological work as the at-risk items are recovered. It is now very urgent.”

Odyssey insisted it was working closely to “ensure the protection of this important piece of the UK’s maritime heritage”.

The statement added: “Odyssey always seeks to fully comply with applicable regulatory regimes on projects that fall under the jurisdiction of government agencies, including the regulations of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).”

Original article by Cahal Milmo from the Independent

Human Remains from Wreck sites: a Proposed Policy for Consultation

The provisions of the Burial Act 1857 (hereafter ‘the Act’) extend to the 12nm territorial limit adjacent to England. It is therefore unlawful to disturb burials within this limit without first obtaining lawful authority to do so.

However, the wording of the Act appears to refer to bodies (or parts thereof) which were deliberately buried. As such, human remains from wreck sites, even if they lie within the territorial limit, do not fall under the provisions of the Act (although deliberately buried human remains in submerged landscapes would), and are therefore subject to the common law. Indeed, it seems that the common law offers no mechanism for the exhumation of a corpse or parts of a corpse found buried in unconsecrated ground, which would include corpses found in wrecks. Removal could therefore be a common law offence in cases not covered by the Act or other legislation.

It is therefore desirable that some mechanism be devised to bring human remains from historic wreck sites into line with protection offered to deliberately deposited remains.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, the purpose of this document is therefore to highlight the legislative and policy gap with regard to the treatment of human remains from wreck sites within England’s territorial waters, and to propose a future best practice.

The consultation period is from Monday 21 October 2013 to 13 December 2013.


For more click this link

Belgium ratifies UNESCO convention

Belgium’s first steps into underwater archaeology were taken in 1992, in the medieval (submerged) town of Walraversijde. The Archeological Museum in Raversijde, founded in the wake of this excavation, is still the country’s headquarters for maritime archaeology. Since then, underwater archaeological research in Belgium has made tremendous advancements. A national maritime database on shipwrecks and underwater archeological sites in the North Sea and Schelde-River has been set up, while Belgian historians and underwater archaeologists have been involved in numerous international, high-profile projects, such as Planarch and MACHU.

To show its continuing commitment to the protection of underwater cultural heritage and the 2001 Convention, the Flemish Government, in cooperation with UNESCO, will organize a Scientific and Commemorative Event for the Naval Battles of World War I that will take place in Bruges, in June 2014, one hundred years after the outbreak of World War I. The event will bring together leading experts from all over the world and will commemorate the losses of World War I and the underwater heritage resulting from its battles, thereby conveying a strong message of peace, international cooperation and reconciliation.

The 2001 Convention, the most important international treaty on submerged heritage, entered into force on 2 January 2009. This landmark legal instrument is the international community’s response to the destruction of submerged archaeological sites by commercial treasure-hunters and certain industrial activities and was designed to strengthen legal protection, cooperation, awareness-raising and capacity-building. The ever growing number of States Parties to the Convention reflects the increasing recognition of the need to ensure the same protection to underwater cultural heritage as that already accorded to land-based heritage. The Convention is strongly supported by underwater archaeologists, who actively apply and enforce its regulations. Belgium is the 45th State to ratify it.

to read more go to here

Department for Culture, Media and Sport designates unidentified wreck

The number of protected wrecks is now 48. The new designated wreck is located off the north coast of the Isles of Wight, Alison James from English Heritage notified MAG this week.

The ‘Unknown Wreck off Thorness Bay’ is the official name for the forty eight protected wreck. This site is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as it is or may prove to be the site of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed and, on account of the historical, archaeological or artistic importance of the vessel, or of any objects contained or formerly contained in it which may be lying on the sea bed in or near the wreck, it ought to be protected from unauthorised interference. Protected wreck sites are designated by Statutory Instrument. The following information has been extracted from the relevant Statutory Instrument.

The wreck site is highly unusual in that it contains an almost complete assemblage of a mid- to late 19C wooden merchant sailing ship, consisting of the ship’s structure complete with its hull, planking and fitting, many small finds scattered over the site associated with different aspects of shipboard life, and technology including rigging and navigation equipment. There are also materials possibly associated with the ship’s cargo or provisions.

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The site is currently under no immediate threat but evidence gathered during fieldwork suggests that some parts of the wreck have been exposed and these exposed materials are at risk of loss. English Heritage will be drawing up a management plan for the site after carrying out a detailed risk assessment as part of its Heritage At Risk programme.

To read the report go to http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1402103