Final prints of 2015 SAMPHIRE report arrive!

The printed copies of the final SAMPHIRE report, covering the 2015 investigations have arrived at our Edinburgh office. This last report is bursting with amazing archaeological sites. Over the next few days and weeks these will be winging their way out to all of our 2015 project participants. Huge thanks are due to The Crown Estate for their help with printing and for all their support through the project.

Now that we have the final report we can finally put all three reports together on the shelf! It’s nice to see that the landscape shots line up quite nicely although they were taken in totally different parts of Scotland’s west coast.

Explore the SAMPHIRE Discoveries!

We’ve updated our online interactive map with all of the archaeological discoveries made during the three years of the project. Why not have a look around and see what’s been recorded in your local area? For best results view this map in full screen mode. You can also click on the images in some of the entries to scroll through photographs of each site. As well as the archaeological sites there are also entries for our blogs so you can see where the team went to meet local people.


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SAMPHIRE 2015 Annual Report now online!

We are delighted to announce that our 2015 report for the SAMPHIRE Project is now completed and has been published online!  This is the last of the three annual project reports and covers our community engagement and diving fieldwork from all of last year. This year’s report is crammed with exciting new discoveries, reported and investigated in partnership with local people along Scotland’s west coast.

The 2015 programme focussed mainly on the south-west of Scotland and includes 3D surveys, coastal wrecks and several exciting new offshore shipwrecks from the 18th to 20th centuries. The report also describes the many conferences and talks where we  have presented the project over the last year and the diving fieldwork. This year we have benefitted from even more community participation, including participation in dive surveys with student and commercial diver volunteers and from more partnership working with groups such as Dalriada and Tyneside Divers as well as professional dive photographers.

The reporting element of the project is now complete and our focus over the final few weeks will be to ensure that all the data we have captured is fully and efficiently archived with Historic Environment Scotland so that as much of the data can be made available as possible. We cannot thank all of our partners and participants enough for making this project possible. Over the last three years we have been able to demonstrate that there is a huge amount of unique knowledge of maritime cultural heritage sites held within coastal communities and we are glad that we’ve been able to help to preserve this knowledge and make it available for future generations. We hope to continue to build upon the knowledge we’ve gained and the networks and relationships we have built up during the project and will update this blog with future developments. We are also heading to the 2nd European Scientific Diving Conference in Sweden in May and will be sharing details of our talk there soon.

You can read the new report online at and also grab copies of the 2013 and 2014 reports as well as other resources.

Tyneside Sub-Aqua Club win BSAC Wreck award

A photograph provided by Tyneside divers of the Cathcart Park. Copyright Andy Hunt/Richard Booth 2015.

We are delighted to share the news that one of the local diving clubs who have made significant contributions to this year’s SAMPHIRE project have also won an award for their excellent work on a wreck site just over the border at the Farne Islands.

Tyneside Branch 114 have won the 2015 British Sub-Aqua Club Wreck Award for their report on the Gun Rocks wreck site. Although this is not part of the SAMPHIRE project it is a great example of the type of collaboration the project aims to achieve and some of our team members had the privilege of assisting Tyneside with their work on the site as members of the Wessex Archaeology dive team. This report is a brilliant example of how local divers can draw on some of the specialist skills of maritime archaeologists to help bring new discoveries to light. We highly recommend that everyone has a read of the report which can be seen on the BSAC website here.

The Tyneside club have also been active in Scotland and have provided the SAMPHIRE project with fantastic data on the wreck of the Cathcartpark, a cargo ship wrecked near Iona in 1912. We will be providing full details of this shortly as we finalise our 2015 report which will be available to download here.

Presenting SAMPHIRE at Marine Data day in Edinburgh

SAMPHIRE investigator John McCarthy gives an overview of the project to the workshop attendees - Photo by Hannah Smith

On Tuesday we went down to a marine heritage workshop at John Sinclair House in Edinburgh where we had the chance to give a brief presentation on the SAMPHIRE project as a example of the type of project generating data for the archaeological archives. The workshop was organised by with HES (Historic Environment Scotland) and MEDIN (the Marine Environmental Data & Information Network) with the aim of looking at the new role HES will be playing as a federated Historic Environment Data Archive Centre.

This is an area of major importance for marine heritage as it will help to ensure the future preservation of the data the communities on the west coast have helped us to generate. This will also make it easier for archaeologists and the public to access this data in the future.


Heritage Lottery Fund support for Historic Environment Fisheries

Our colleagues in the English branch of WA Coastal & Marine have just announced that they have been awarded £92,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries: Establishing a Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer. This project proposes the appointment of a Heritage Lottery Fund supported ‘Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer’ (HEFLO) working in Sussex to engage with fishing communities to protect heritage. This project will help to carry out similar work to what we’ve been doing in Scotland as part of Project SAMPHIRE and should see lots of great discoveries and chances to participate in maritime heritage – See more at the Wessex blog post here.

Intertidal wrecks at Fearnmore

Ahead of the next week’s Archaeological Landscapes: Professional Skills fieldschool at Loch Torridon which is being run by our colleague Andrew Bicket in collaboration with Professor Karen Hardy, the SAMPHIRE project has had some previously unrecorded and very interesting wrecks reported to us at nearby Fearnmore. The initial discovery was sent to us by Karen herself who noticed a spread of wreckage amongst the kelp in the intertidal zone while revisiting some much older Mesolithic archaeological remains nearby. Karen is an expert on prehistoric archaeology but to understand these recent shipwrecks we have called on the assistance of the local community, in particular from our old friend, Shieldaig resident Robert Gordon and also from 75 year old Harris resident Hamish Taylor. Hamish spotted some photos we shared with the West Coast fishing boat group (Past & Present) on Facebook and got in touch to offer his expert advice. Hamish wrote:

‘In my upper teens (late 1950s) I spent five idyllic years in North Uist where I worked on small open fishing boats using most kinds of Kelvin Pet/Par engines (except the Kelvin Sleeve)and also occasionally on two twin screw Zulus, one with the 26/30 and 13/15 configuration and did just a couple of trips on a large Zulu with a 60 Poppet on the port side and a 26/30 on the starboard. The age of the Zulu was really past by then and these two boats Maggie Noble and Sickle must have been the last tremors of a dying breed. I got to know Kelvin Pet/Par engines and J and K diesels and their associated idiosyncrasies very well, but it was in the reflection of later and more mature years, away from boats and fishing that I really grew to understood and analyse the interaction of different kinds of boats and their combinations of engines. I retained a lifelong interest in marine engines of that age and still occasionally scan the internet just to gaze in admiration at the Kelvin Poppet, Riccardo and J & K diesels and Gardner diesels’.

Hamish was able to tell us the following about the wreckage in Karen’s photos: ‘the engine still vertical and attached to the frames looks to me to be a 13/15 Kelvin Poppet pertol/paraffin engine. It is offset to starboard, so the boat, probably a Zulu or a Fifie, was twin screw, The other engine lying on its port side looks like a 26/30 Poppet (double the 13/15), which would have been the port engine, and the flat plate uppermost was the mounting plate for the magneto. 26/30 to port and 13/15 to starboard was the usual confirguration. Both engines swung left-handed props, which meant that, particularly in a Zulu, the port engine was almost useless for manoeuvring so the smaller engine (on the starboard side) was used for manoeuvring and the larger engine added in when steaming. Occasionally one might see a Poppet engine on the starboard side and a Kelvin Riccardo (which swung a right-handed prop) on the port side, so either one could be used for manoeuvring… the spherical ball fragments were the water-cooled silencers, but I’m afraid I can’t identify the gear wheels unless they were part of a line-hauler – they certainly were not part of a standard Kelvin Poppet…’. Another old friend of the project, James Corrigall of Portree was able to add that ‘these gear wheels look like they were part of an iron man,they were used for hauling ground nets on the boats that worked the hake cod and coleys a good few year ago.’

We also contacted Robert Gordon as we knew he was familiar with the area from the work we had done with him around Chuaig Bay in 2013. This proved to be a good move as Robert was not only able to go to the site and take a further series of images but was able to make a probable identification of the wrecks and give a brief history of them.

Robert was able to tell us that locals believed the two wrecks to be the Queen and the Sally, the Queen being in better condition and having been put on the beach at the end of WWII while the Sally had been there longer. The Sally (registration TT13) was registered at Tarbert in Loch Fyne and was built in 1902 at Port Bannantyne. It’s deign was that of a Loch Fyne Skiff and it was fitted later with a Kelvin 7-9 hp in August of 1908,  later upgraded to a 8-10 hp model. We will continue to research these vessels in collaboration with locals so look out for more information in this year’s report!

3D interactive Scottish Medieval Galley Carvings

We have recently been posting about scanning and 3D analysis of medieval Scottish galley carvings, undertaken by the SAMPHIRE maritime archaeology team. These carvings are in a remote area of Scotland and while we definitely recommend a visit to go and see them in person, for those who cannot we have uploaded interactive models so that you can explore the carvings in three dimensions using just your browser. By clicking on the images below you can rotate, zoom and pan around the stones and by clicking on the annotations you can access more information about particular areas of the carving. This will work in the most up to date version of most browsers but users of older versions of Internet Explorer may find that they need to implement an update before they can see the models.



Kiel haul: 3D scans of galley carvings

You may remember our recent blog about the 3D scanning of medieval grave slabs in the churchyard of Kiel, near the town of Lochaline. Our boffins have been toiling away at processing the data and we now have a nice haul of results to share. As you can see there are four slabs we have scanned that depict Highland galleys (highlighted in red above). These are crucial evidence for research into the design and construction of this enigmatic emblem of medieval Scottish life.

A helmeted soldier at the rear of the galley holds his axe aloft

Scramble to Eigg – Highland boat survey

The Isle of Eigg was the destination for the maritime archaeologists of the SAMPHIRE team yesterday. We travelled from the Sound of Mull to revisit one of Scotland’s most fascinating maritime archaeological site, the clinker-built boat wreck at Galmisdale Bay. This wreck was first archaeologically surveyed around 20 years ago but is still not fully understood. It shows elements of a unique traditional boat-building technique common to the western British Isles and Scandinavia. The team was investigating reports by local residents of some of the timbers washing ashore over the winter and went to survey the current condition and investigate some of the construction details to try to enhance our understanding of the wreck.

We visited the home of local author Camille Dressler to record some of the timbers which she has saved from the beach and also took the opportunity to scan a galley carving at Kildonan church.

3D scanning the galley carving at Kildonan with the help of Brian, a longtime resident of Eigg