In the 50th year of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, the Protected Wreck Association has revealed the enormous contribution that volunteer divers make to the UK's marine historic environment – and issued a call for new divers to join the cause.
The survey undertaken by the Association revealed that in 2022 alone, divers volunteered over 1,312 days working on protected wreck sites, and contributed nearly £80,000 to support the management of protected sites.
The survey provides a snapshot of the value of the contribution of volunteers in just one year. It should be highlighted that the survey respondents represent only a small number of those who volunteer their time in such a way and the true figure is likely to be much higher. It can therefore be concluded that the value of 50 years of volunteering is highly significant and has helped underpin management of the UK’s most important maritime heritage throughout that time.
However, with the average volunteer age being over 66, younger divers are urgently needed.
Professor Mike Williams, Chair of the Protected Wreck Association, said: “Licensed diving teams are the unsung heroes of the UK’s underwater cultural heritage. Without fanfare, year after year, they go out investigating, recording and safeguarding the public’s maritime heritage. They are the embodiment of the adage ‘Take what you need, give more than you take'.”
Hefin Meara, Marine Archaeologist at Historic England said: “The efforts of the protected wreck licensees are invaluable for the investigation and monitoring of these nationally important shipwreck sites. The results of the survey emphasise the significant contribution made by avocational divers to the care of our underwater cultural heritage. We look forward to continue our collaboration with the Protected Wreck Association, in order to support the vital projects undertaken by the Licensees.”