South Africa’s underwater heritage is a finite resource that belongs to us all, and should be enjoyed and studied by anyone with an interest in it. However, it needs to be managed it in such a way that ensures it will be available for future generations. This means that sites need to be found, recorded, mapped and monitored, and protected from those pesky treasure hunters. With approximately 3 000 known shipwrecks along 3 000kms of coastline, this is quite a mammoth task. And it’s not just shipwrecks; there is maritime-related infrastructure, sacred lakes and a multitude of other forms of underwater heritage that fall under SAHRA’s mandate.
Now, Jon likes to be busy, but as omnipotence is a skill he has yet to master, he needs some help. By providing divers and non-divers who have an interest in their underwater cultural heritage with some basic training, we not only increase awareness of this resource, but also give individuals the knowledge and skills they need to get involved and assist us with successfully managing some of these sites.
Over two weekends (29 October; 5&6 November 2011), SAHRA’s MUCH Unit conducted training for 8 such individuals. Using the curriculum developed by the Nautical Archaeological Society (NAS) in the UK, the participants were introduced to various key concepts in underwater archaeology, including archaeological site types, archaeological dating methods, South African legislation regarding underwater heritage, searching for and then surveying a site, and conservation techniques. They were presented with South African case studies and encouraged to develop their own projects in collaboration with SAHRA. The participants practiced practical surveying skills, on land and underwater, and discovered the necessity of proper planning and team work when working underwater. The ladies also discovered the joys of being unable to talk underwater, as this was the only time that Alex was quiet.
The NAS curriculum is divided into 5 parts, and the modules can be spread out to accommodate even the busiest individuals. This group completed the Introduction to Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology and Part 1 Certificate. The next step is to practice the skills they learned on a real site and create a site map and a site report for the Part 2 qualification.
A big thank you to Rochelle, Monica, Marianne, Feier, Paul, Alex, Sean and Justine for being such an interested, interactive and entertaining group. We look forward to continuing your training and working with you in the future. Last but not least, thank you to Heather for all her help!