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By Mike Haigh, Wreck Hunters Project Director.
A new course called Wreck Hunters is being launched on the tiny Honduran island of Utila to teach the myriad of skills needed to become a diving archaeologist. Into the bargain, you can WIN a marine archaeology course in the Caribbean worth more than £2,000!
This off-the-beaten-track location offers the perfect environment to investigate the remains of an 18th century wreck – known locally as ‘The Oliver’ – right on its doorstep. The goal is to achieve a diving archaeology qualification to add to your scuba skills.
What does the Wreck Hunters course involve?
The Wreck Hunters course involves everything from excavation of the site using scaffold frames to an underwater vacuum and, of course, lifting bags for recovering heavier finds. The course will include techniques old and new; some of the latest technology is to be deployed, such as advanced underwater metal detectors, underwater comms and mapping techniques with the aid of video and stills cameras.
As a graduate in archaeology and veteran UK diver, it has been a long-held ambition of mine to create an original course for divers with a desire to acquire the sort of skills normally reserved for professionals.
Who can join the Wreck Hunters course?
It is open to anyone with Advanced PADI Open Water or equivalent and will involve a variety of illuminating classroom lectures as well as a great deal of time at the dive site doing actual diving archaeology.
Wreck Hunters is a unique opportunity for people to learn the skills of diving archaeology in an environment which is not stressful, but gives the chance to work on a real wreck, a real time capsule and to help unravel the secrets of this historical treasure.
Diving archaeology is right now at the cutting edge of vital questions about the early development of humankind and culture.
Discover ‘The Oliver’ with Wreck Hunters
The story behind ‘The Oliver’ goes back nearly half a century, when an expedition known as Operation Fathom II set about hunting for treasure. It was a well-funded, professional team which included a characterful Austrian diver, Gunter Kordovsky, who has become something of a local legend. He and the team discovered a late 18th century wreck, in around 18m of constantly warm water.
Rather than discovering a site of priceless riches, they instead found a sunken trading ship carrying a veritable treasure trove of historical artefacts, ranging from pottery, pewter and glass to ship fittings and two large anchors.
Fifty years on, the wreck gives us the opportunity to go back to that time when it was first found and do a proper excavation job. We need to answer the questions that were not answered then: about where she was going, where she was from, what she was constructed of, what she was carrying, who were the people on board, what happened to them?
When will the Wreck Hunters course start?
Given the current state of the COVID pandemic, the plan in 2021 is to carry out a number of survey dives with divers with the relevant experience, while the full course is planned to start in earnest in the summer of 2022.
Visit Wreck Hunters to find out more about this exciting course and how to take part.