Project Background, Aims and Objectives

The aim of Wrecks on the Seabed is to provide industry, regulators and contractors with guidance on the archaeological assessment, evaluation and recording of wreck sites.
Wrecks on the Seabed is supported by the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund, administered by English Heritage.
The project has its origins in Wessex Archaeology’s involvement in licence applications for marine aggregate dredging. While methods for identifying actual and potential wreck sites from desk-based and geophysical prospecting data are becoming well established, methodologies for subsequent stages of investigation are less well developed.
The project started in July 2002 and continued until March 2004. Fieldwork took place in August-September 2002 (Year I), and in July- September 2003 (Year II).
The project adressed three levels of investigation, using both geophysical and diver-based techniques:
  • Field assessment;
  • Non-intrusive evaluation;
  • Rapid in situ recording.
While Year I concentrated on the initial assessment and quick evaluation of wrecksites, Year II focussed on methods of in situ recording.
Methodologies were developed on a sample of known (but generally unidentified) wreck sites off the coasts of Hampshire and Sussex, UK. The wrecks included both metal and wooden-hulled vessels, and aircraft. They were selected from an initial list of 44 sites, with the intention of conducting fieldwork on 14 wrecks in Year I and seven wrecks in Year II.
The Year I geophysical investigations included sidescan and magnetometer surveys of 17 sites. In Year II, detailed magnetometer, sub-bottom and multibeam surveys of seven sites took place. Diving investigations in Year I included assessment of nine sites, using surface-supplied divers equipped with video, digital still cameras and underwater tracking. In Year II four out of seven wrecksites were dived on. In situ recording took place on three sites.