From 2013 to 2015 professional underwater archaeologists of Wessex Archaeology and Flinders University, Australia combined their expertise in partnership with local maritime communities – from Residents to recreational divers, fishermen, harbour masters and scallop divers – to record maritime cultural heritage sites along the length of west coast Scotland.

Project SAMPHIRE (Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research and Education) was a great success with over 100 new sites revealed and recorded through the innovative approach to community engagement. Project SAMPHIRE, which was funded by The Crown Estate Stewardship Fund, also won the prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2017 in the Education, Training and Awareness-raising category which is a great honour for and a testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone involved.

Volunteer diver on a wreck site Unknown wreck discovered on the foreshore receiving the Europa Nostra award

Each year Project SAMPHIRE underwent four key phases; preparation and promotion; community engagement and fieldwork; site investigation fieldwork; and finally, analysis and dissemination. Embedded in this methodology was the way in which communities and individuals were encouraged to, engage with the project, and enhance stewardship of their local heritage.

The investigation fieldwork was primarily carried out by diver survey of the sites reported, by members of both the SAMPHIRE dive team and wherever possible with input from local volunteers who had supplied the initial information. Intertidal survey and aerial survey were also undertaken to investigate sites that were not completely submerged.

106 Blog posts with 13000 views

1 Europa Nostra Award!

158 Archaeological sites reported

Finally, the dissemination phase of the project consisted of ongoing blog and website updates, the addition of the information gathered in to the national database, Canmore, and ultimately the publication of three annual reports detailing the finds of each year of the project. Throughout the course of the three year project the information gathered from members of the local communities was crucial. Some notable discoveries include:

  • The Yemassee (an American cargo ship lost in 1859)
  • The Falcon, a previously unlocated paddle steamer built in 1860 and lost in 1867 with great loss of life
  • The Lady Middleton (a schooner lost in 1868)
  • The Lord Bangor (a wooden ship lost in 1894)
  • The Cathcartpark (a steamship lost in 1912 near the island of Iona)
  • The Hersilla (an armed iron naval yacht lost in 1916)
  • The SS Viscount (lost in 1924)
  • The SS George A. West (a wooden steam trawler lost in 1927)
  • The Thalia (a steam yacht lost in 1942)
  • The Carrigart (a steam drifter lost in 1933), and,
  • Two World War II flying boats on the seabed near Oban.

SAMPHIRE’s methodology has a great degree of transferability and is an excellent model for similar sites throughout Europe.

The Europa Nostra Jury on awarding the prize to project SAMPHIRE


The results of all the investigations undertaken were fully written up and published in the annual reports (see links below). The success of the project can be measured not just by the number of newly recorded sites, that now have their information shared online through the website and Canmore database and through the hard copy publications, but also in the increased trust and positivity shared by the communities that were engaged and the archaeologists involved. New finds and friends were made each year and it is the hope of the team that the model applied during project SAMPHIRE can provide a foundation for similar projects in the future.

Further information on all the discoveries made by project SAMPHIRE and our partners can be found on the projects website at