HE Affiliated Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Project ’’, Project 7867’

In 2019 SWMAG have been working with MSDS Marine and the Nautical Archaeology Society on a project commissioned by Historic England. The Historic England Affiliated Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Project. The Project recognises that in the marine environment the role of a voluntary Licensee and their team is essential to the system that helps to manage historic wreck sites in England’s territorial waters. However, it is also recognised throughout the sector that the demographic of licensee teams is one of an ageing population. This project is currently running two pilots to link two existing Licensee teams with new diver groups; to report on the successes and challenges faced in the project; and, to make a series of recommendations for future licensee volunteer recruitment. SWMAG are one of the teams chosen for the pilot, the other being the team on the Hazardous protected wreck.

The aims of the project are to:

1) Deliver a high quality pilot project that will enthuse and recruit the next generation of protected wreck site volunteers whilst ensuring current Licensee teams feel supported and that sites are kept off the Heritage at Risk Register;

2) Provide a series of recommendations on the future recruitment and retention of volunteers to enable Historic England to best support Licensees and their teams.

The project got off to an excellent start with enthusiastic responses from SWMAG teams members. Following agreement with Historic England and SWMAG an initial project blog was launched on 26th February, hosted on the MSDS Marine website (https://msdsmarine.com/en/nextpwageneration/).

The blog was widely shared on social media and has had over 500 readers to date. In addition to the blog, a large scale social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook ,LinkedIn and Instagram was undertaken to attract divers to the project

Historic England and the Nautical Archaeology Society were tagged in all posts and the Licensee team partners mentioned by name.

A start-up meeting was held at the SWMAG Northampton Club House on 17th January 2019. Alison James and Tom Harrison attended from MSDS Marine and various SWMAG members were present including Jim Tyson, Ron Howell, and Mick Kightley. Some team members, including Licensee Mick Palmer, were unable to attend due to personal commitments. The meeting agreed the next steps and identified everyone’s roles in the project.

Following the meeting the dive support vessel Falcon II was booked and the fieldwork dates set for 7th June for survey, 20th- 21st June and 12th – 13th October for volunteer diver survey.

A well-attended volunteer recruitment evening was held at the Northampton BSAC Club House on Thursday 21st March. Over 30 divers attended the evening representing various clubs and 23 of them signed up to take part in the project

HE Affiliated Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Project Report for 20 th 21 st June 2019

At the 2018 NAS Conference in South Wales four members of the South West Maritime Archaeological Group met up with Alison James of MSDS Marine who put forward her proposition for a Project that would assist the work on the Salcombe Protected Wreck sites by introducing new divers to the existing team who are now in their twenty forth year and becoming somewhat depleted.

Her suggestion was received warmly and after discussion with David Parham SWMAG’s nominated Archaeologist and the rest of the team members two meetings were set up by MSDS at Northampton BSAC’s clubhouse…

The first meeting was a discussion between MSDS and SWMAG to go over the details of the Project and plan future diving sessions at Salcombe. The second meeting, well organized by Alison of MSDS included the volunteer divers and a representative of NAS (Nautical Archaeological Society) as well as existing SWMAG divers.

At the second meeting a SWMAG member gave a brief talk on the history of the work and achievements on both the Cannon Site and Bronze Age wrecks, then Alison discussed the planning and timeline of the Project, then Peta the NAS Educational Officer gave a brief talk on the Archaeological disciplines expected during the Project. The evening was a huge success and left all who attended great expectations for the forthcoming Project.

On the weekend of 20th/21st June 2019 MSDS, SWMAG and volunteer divers gathered at Alston Farm Caravan Park near Salcombe on a nice sunny day.

The Friday evening was taken up with a twenty four year history of exploration and discovery of the two Salcombe Sites and a NAS introductory course run by Jon Parlour.

Project attendees briefing with Ron Howell

Saturday morning dawned under a blue sky and breezy conditions as we all made the short journey to join the Dartmouth Diving boat ‘Falcon’ On board were the divers, two representatives of MSDS, and four from SWMAG. As we headed over the Bar the sea conditions worsened as we turned to port, however things improved the nearer we got to the dive site. The week before the Project a site marker buoy was dropped close to the centre of the Cannon site to replace the previous that had been chopped or lost.

Due to the conditions the Skipper announced that there was to be just one dive of 50 minutes as the forecast was getting worse for the journey back to Salcombe. The divers then kitted up and entered the choppy water in pairs. On time the divers surfaced and were safely recovered using Falcons dive lift. The journey back to Salcombe was to say the least uncomfortable as the wind increased. Once alongside it was decided to fill the rest of the sunny day by visiting the Salcombe Shipwreck Museum where some of SWMAG’S finds are exhibited.

Project attendees on-board Falcon II

In the evening the divers had a debrief all relating that they had had a great experience seeing some of the cannon and anchors in good underwater visibility, one diver putting his camera to good use practicing his photogrammetry In all, despite the sea conditions the dive was enjoyed by all and everyone hoped for a full days diving on Sunday, but first all the participants sat down in the warm evening sunshine to enjoy a lovely meal provided once again by Alison.

Clear blue skies and very little wind greeted the campers as they made their way to the Quay to meet ‘Falcon’ who was to be seen in the distance after leaving her overnight moorings. As she neared the jetty the skipper engaged the engine in reverse to come in stern first and was greeted with a loud bang as the prop shaft bearing parted, luckily the bystanders managed to get a line to her and bring her alongside. It was obvious that ‘Falcon’ was not going anywhere so all kit was off loaded and plan ‘B’ was discussed on the jetty. It was decided to travel to Brixham breakwater for a shore dive then on to Hope Cove to do some exercises in measuring a cannon and anchor.

Despite the loss of the ‘Falcon’ on a perfect sunny and calm Sunday the weekend was a success, the divers impressive on what was a border line dive due to choppy seas, they enjoyed the experience and wanted to carry on searching and surveying putting to work the archaeological skills they had learnt at the camp site.

Examining the Erme Estuary Cannon

Recording details of the Erme Estuary Cannon

Project team outside Salcombe Maritime Museum

Above all the concept worked, the Project was instigated by MSDS to introduce new divers to Maritime Archaeological by joining the teams on Protected Sites hoping they would eventually become permanent members of the teams, we are now looking forward to the next planned date in April 2020.

Ron Howell, South West Maritime Archaeological Group.