The SAMPHIRE team stopped near the head of Loch Fyne to check out an intertidal shipwreck reported to us at Ardnoe, first reported to us a few weeks ago by Dr Clare Ellis of Argyll Archaeology. Clare had noticed the site while working on the shoreline nearby and got in touch with us after watching our talk on the SAMPHIRE project at the recent Archaeological Research in Progress (ARP) conference in Edinburgh. After battling our way through marshland we eventually got down to the shoreline and found the wreck. A close inspection showed that it is a large but crudely-built wreck sitting on its keel. It was clearly a large vessel of at least 18m in length with a shallow draught. It is carvel planked with planking held in place with treenails. The gunwales of the ship are now gone but the keel is well-preserved. A fascinating wreck which certainly deserves further investigation and we are going to try to come back to do a more detailed survey at the end of our dive programme this week.
The final day of the SAMPHIRE community engagement fieldwork on Saturday saw the team covering the last few miles towards the border with England. It seems like a million years ago that we started at Kinlochbervie on the NW tip of Scotland although it’s only been three and we have now travelled the entire west coast of Scotland!
Our stops for the final day included Southerness, where we chased up reported remains of a wooden vessel in the intertidal zone. At the end of the day for the sake of completion we drove the last few miles to the Border. Over the course of our community engagement fieldwork we have covered over a thousand miles and although we didn’t walk it we feel justified in putting a certain Proclaimers song on the stereo! It has been a great trip and we are excited to review all the information we have collected from local maritime communities and start to research and prepare for our diving fieldwork in July!
On Saturday the SAMPHIRE team headed further east to the town of Kirkcudbright. We made our way down to the harbour and quickly found the local harbour master Keith. He was busy with several operations but was happy for us to contact him later. Before we left he also gave us some information about a locally known wreck in the intertidal zone just outside of town.
We followed Keith’s directions and quickly found the site just an hour before low tide. The wreck is visible from the road and has a small plaque dedicated to it just outside of the local carpark. The wreck is the remains of the schooner Monreith from Wigtown, wrecked on the sands here in 1900. We were surprised at how much of the vessel remains despite its significant age and recorded the timbers as best we could with the limited time provided by the tides. There is much more to be learned about this wreck and the others within this area and we look forward to continuing the research!
We have had a slight delay in our blogs due to a lack of wifi access for our field team. The team are now back in Edinburgh and we’ll be sending out some blogs on what we got up to during our last few days of community engagement fieldwork.
On Friday the 15th of May Team SAMPHIRE began the day in Stranraer and then headed west to Portpatrick where they met a local fisherman Robert Campbell. Robert helped us identify a few wreck locations in the area and also gave us the background to several old anchors we noticed scattered around the town. We documented the anchors before we headed south down the Mull of Galloway to Drummore. Unfortunately the harbour was empty in Drummore and we weren’t able to track down anyone who knew of sites in the area but we were able to document a small wreck of fishing vessel in the foreshore area.
After leaving Drummore we headed to the Isle of Whithorn. Here we were directed by the locals to the local harbour master Shaun McGuire. Shaun was able to point us to several new wreck locations in the area. Sean was also able to give us the history of a very large anchor that was mounted outside of the Whithorn sailing club. Evidently it had been snagged in trawling nets several years earlier, south of the port and donated to the sailing club. Though we are not sure on the exact date yet, it is clear that the anchor was from a large sailing vessel.
After visiting Maidens we continued down the Ayrshire coast and stopped at the next port town, Girvan. After asking around the port we quickly met the local harbour master Roddy Leach who told us a few local wrecks including the Varyag, a Russian Cruiser that was famous for its role in the Battle of Chemulpo Bay during the Russian-Japanese War in 1904. The cruiser ultimately ended up in the Clyde and was sold for scrap to Germany. While under tow the vessel ran aground off of Lendalfoot, a small village south of Girvan. The wreck is a known diving and fishing site to the locals in area and the loss of the Varyag was recently commemorated with a large monument outside of Lendalfoot, erected in 2006.
After speaking to Mr. Leach he introduced us to another local source of knowledge, Mr. Ian Morton, a long-time resident and diver. He was happy to talk to us and told of several dive sites that he used to visit during his diving years. After the harbour visit we travelled south to Lendalfoot to visit the Varyag monument and then continued south to Stranraer for more discoveries!
The SAMPHIRE team left Ayr yesterday morning and headed south. The first stop was the small port town of Dunure. Dunure’s harbour dates to 1811 and still houses a small local fishing fleet. We were able to talk to some local residents that were around harbour about known wrecks in the area and we learned about the loss of the Valkyrien, a barque that ran aground north of Dunure harbour in 1883. Several of the local fishermen of Dunure were involved in rescuing the crew of the Valkyrien and the wreck is commemorated with a plaque near the harbour.
The next stop after Dunure was Maidens. Here we headed to the pier and met Jim the local Harbour Master who was happy to discuss local wrecks and also to refer us to locals with knowledge of the area. Jim introduced us to Ian Templeton, a retired fisherman and history enthusiast. Ian started fishing when he was 21, ring trawling for herring from the Isle of Man to the Outer Hebrides and then shifting to creel fishing later in life. Overall he spent more than 35 years fishing in western Scotland.
Ian has an in-depth knowledge of the local marine environment and shared several sites with us. He also gave a great account of the changing maritime landscape and spoke at length about the developments in the maritime industry and culture. After our meeting with Mr. Templeton he thanked us and said “It is nice to know that people are still interested in these things” which is always nice to hear!
We then moved on to the foreshore area of the village to document the remains of an old fishing vessel. The Royal Commission of Historic and Ancient Monuments has several records for reported losses of early 20th century vessels in this area but no confirmed wrecks.
Yesterday the SAMPHIRE team travelled to Great Cumbrae, one of the inhabited islands in the Firth of Clyde. The main town on Great Cumbrae is the port of Millport. Millport has a distinguished history of marine science, dating back to 1897 when Sir John Murray, considered the father of modern oceanography by many, established the Millport Marine Biological Station. Today, the station is still in operation though under different auspices. It has recently been reborn as the Field Studies Council Millport Field Station, and is still dedicated to promoting and teaching marine research and marine sciences. Dr. Philip Cowrie of FSC Millport gave us a warm welcome and discussed several shipwreck sites in the region that are known to the research staff.
Following our visit to Millport we stopped into C&C Marine Services Dive Centre in the Largs Marina where we addedx more potential sites to our list. The final stop of the day was at the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats. Today we’ll be heading south from Ayr to Stranraer.
In Irvine the SAMPHIRE team visited the fantastic Scottish Maritime Museum to discuss the SAMPHIRE project and see if any of the staff or volunteers could give us leads on unrecorded maritime heritage in the area. This was the first time that the team had visited the Scottish Maritime Museum and we were blown away by the number of exhibits and resources that the museum has, including several ship and boat restoration projects. Of particular interest was an old chartroom from an unidentified steamship that had been used as a gardener’s cottage in Aberdeenshire until 1999! The staff of the museum were able to give us several contact details for locals with knowledge of wrecks and maritime history in the area. We will definitely be visiting again the near future!
Today the SAMPHIRE team left Inverkip and had a very busy day working our way south through Largs, Ardrossan, Irvine, Troon and ending in Ayr. Along the way the team visited various different establishments including the Vikingrar! in Largs, the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine and the marinas in Ardrossan and Troon. The team received a warm welcome everywhere they went and have picked up several new leads for new maritime archaeological sites. Finding the right people to talk to in each location is part of the investigative process for Project SAMPHIRE and the hunt continues!
Our 2015 SAMPHIRE community engagement fieldwork officially kicked off yesterday with the team leaving Edinburgh and heading west toward the Clyde, one of our key study areas this year. The team’s first stop was at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. The Riverside Museum houses a large collection of transportation related materials including plenty of boat and ship models and the preserved remains of prehistoric log boats! The team spoke to the museum staff and left them with SAMPHIRE pamphlets and discussed potential outreach opportunities before hitting the road again.
Traveling west along the Clyde the team dropped in to Port Glasgow and Greenock on the way to Inverkip. Both towns were instrumental in the development of steam technology and iron shipbuilding. The final stop of the day was in Inverkip where they spoke to locals at the Inverkip Marina about the maritime heritage of the area. Tomorrow the team will travel south to Ayrshire, stay tuned!