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.

Diver training with the Nautical Archaeology Society

Project SAMPHIRE is all about building bridges between professional maritime archaeologists and the local communities with knowledge about archaeological sites. Although we mainly focus on sharing of information, we also work with groups like the Nautical Archaeology Society ( who offer training to those who want to get even more involved.

Dr Dan Atkinson and John McCarthy (from WA Coastal & Marine and the SAMPHIRE Project), and Steve Liscoe (Fife Council), are also tutors for the NAS and last weekend we ran a one day Nautical Archaeology Society Introduction course for a group of recreational divers. The day included a mix of theory and practical sessions. We spent the morning going over the basics of maritime archaeology, including how to survey a site and then moved to Musselburgh Pool to put the theory into practice. This course was supported by Historic Scotland.

You can see more images from the training course here.


Flying boats

One of the flying boats we will be investigating this summer with our friends at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Nautical Archaeology Society (through Lochaline Dive Centre) and local divers. The newly surveyed sites including a Catalina and a Sunderland. See some more details on the SAMS website at


A side scan sonar image showing one of the flying boats lying on the seabed near Oban. ©SAMS.

If you have any further info on these sites please contact us through the contact page above.

COALIE – a new project for the New Year

Following the success of the Project SAMPHIREs intertidal survey at Hunterston Sands in September last year we have launched a new, dedicated project, the COALIE (Coastal Archaeological Landscapes: Intertidal & Estuarine) Survey Project in partnership with RCAHMS.

The project focuses on investigating coastal and marine heritage on the North Ayrshire coast between Largs and Ardrossan.

We’re particularly interested in placing the sites we examine in a broad historical and geographical context, sites such as abandoned harbours, beacons,  fishtraps and other structures. Much of this archaeology is underwater for much of the time and difficult to interpret without detailed historical research or local knowledge.

That is why we are working with local individuals and community groups to integrate their knowledge and experience with marine and coastal archaeology specialists at WA Coastal & Marine and RCAHMS.

Get Involved

If you would like to get involved in field surveys or have finds and sites you would like to look into in more detail in this area of the Outer Clyde please get in touch.

We’re particularly interested in shipwrecks, lost harbours, old fishtraps and other sites and finds along this coastline: we want to hear from you.

A panoramic view of the possible harbour site at Hunterston Sands (WA C&M 2013).

Two more years of SAMPHIRE!

Today the Project SAMPHIRE team has issued an official press release announcing the successful completion of the first season and the award of funding for 2014/2015. The Crown Estate has announced a further seventy-five thousand pounds over two years, allowing the Project SAMPHIRE team to continue their investigations on the west coast until the end of 2015. This takes the total amount to over a hundred thousand pounds.

Over the last year the SAMPHIRE team has been meeting with local people on the west coast – including harbour masters, coastguards and diving enthusiasts – asking them to share their knowledge of anything interesting or curious beneath the water.  This has led to the discovery of more than 40 archaeological sites including wooden shipwrecks, cannons, ancient anchors, fish traps and more recent small fishing vessels.  A digital copy of the report has now been released containing a detailed account of the discoveries.

Some of the most notable sites investigated over 2013 include:

  • A series of metal-hulled shipwrecks near Loch Torridon from the 19th/ early 20th centuries;
  • Wreckage from a large unidentified 19th century wooden ship wreck near Kinlochbervie Harbour and a similar site at Loch Laxford;
  • A ballast mound in the shape of a boat near Lochinver of unknown date;
  • Remains of two early 20th century steam drifters on the beaches of the Isle of Lewis and near Applecross;
  • A large 17th or early 18th century anchor spotted in the garden of a house near Kinlochbervie which we were subsequently able to trace back to its discovery by a trawlerman who was able to give us coordinates for where it was found and which is thought to indicate a wreck site;
  • A Napoleonic cannon on the main street of Shieldaig, well-known to locals but mistakenly thought to be from the Spanish Armada and previously unknown to archaeologists; and,
  • Two World War II flying boats on the seabed near Oban.

This year the team plans to work with communities around Oban and the Inner Hebrides but is also asking the public to report any previously unrecorded marine archaeological sites from other parts of Scotland, particularly on the west coast.

The 90-page report has been distributed to individuals who made significant contributions to the project and also to community archives in Skye and the Highlands to complete the information exchange. The team’s findings will also be made available through the RCAHMS archive.

Project SAMPHIRE is led by WA Coastal & Marine in partnership with RCAHMS and Flinders University, and funded by The Crown Estate.

Storms – 16th January 2014

The SAMPHIRE team has been investigating several intertidal wreck sites over the course of 2013. The recent storms have removed much of the beach sand around Scotland’s coast and this has led to numerous archaeological discoveries throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

  • A shipwreck was newly exposed and excavated in Newquay
  • A wreck dating to 1903 was uncovered in Ireland
  • In Wales, a prehistoric forest dating to 10,000 years ago was exposed, along with two cannon from the Napoleanic Era

If you have come across any newly exposed wrecks or similar material this winter we would love to hear it and we may be able to help you investigate with professional archaeologists.

Storms like these also have the potential to erode and damage archaeological sites on land.  Prehistoric sites throughout Scotland and Ireland have been impacted by the recent storms including an Iron Age burial in Shetland.

And a coastal midden in Ireland.

Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) is particularly concerned with coastal archaeological sites damaged by storms and erosion. Further information is available at their website.

SAMPHIRE Report 2013

SAMPHIRE Report 2013

Christmas has come early this year for the SAMPHIRE team and there was great excitement in the Scottish office of WA Coastal & Marine as we unwrapped packages containing 100 bound copies of the SAMPHIRE 2013 Annual Report. These 85 page reports give a summary of all the exciting discoveries of 2013 and a background on what we are trying to achieve with this project, supported by The Crown Estate. We will be posting these out in the New Year to those maritime community members on the west coast of Scotland who have made significant contributions to the project over the last year. We will also be sending copies to RCAHMS and to other community archives on the west coast. To help spread the word as far as possible we will also be posting the report on this website in a digital format shortly.