As 2018 draws to a close and we get ready for the Christmas holidays, it has fallen to me to sum up the NAS year that was 2018, and look forward to the coming 12 months. At this time in the calendar I ritually begin to fill in my new blank Letts diary (other diaries are available) and slowly but surely the year ahead begins to fill up with interesting things to do, great people to see and wonderful places to go. Having started with the NAS back in 2001, every year appears to pass quicker and quicker, and 2018 was no different. It feels like only weeks ago that we were returning from the last Christmas holidays and preparing for a busy year of events and activities underwater and on the foreshore.

2018 highlights (for me at least) included great visibility on the two protected wrecks off the Sussex coast, the Normans Bay Wreck and the Holland 5 Submarine. For three years in a row we have experienced the best visibility on the shallow Norman’s Bay cannon site during April - and as “three bricks in a row make a wall”, we will definitely be trying to fit in a visit in April 2019. Although the site has not yet been identified with certainty we will be concentrating on trying to prove if it really is the Wapen van Utrecht, lost in the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690.

Other highlights in 2018 included the opening of The Sunken Story: London Shipwreck exhibition in Southend on Sea, which if you have not been to already is a must do event for 2019.  In the early part of the summer I had the opportunity to work an airlift on the excavation of HMS Invincible in the Solent with the team from MAST, Bournemouth University and the National Museum of the Royal Navy. During September I was also lucky enough to return to Cyprus to volunteer on the 2018 season on the Mazotos wreck in the Mediterranean with our friends at the University of Cyprus MARE Lab. Nothing quite beats free falling 45m into the blue to see a two and a half thousand-year-old wreck beneath you.

In 2018 the NAS further continued to work on the remains of the Minesweeper No.113 in Portsmouth Harbour, where I was fortunate enough to meet John and Gwyneth James, who were members of the first NAS course back in 1986!

We also dived on the yet unidentified “Chesil Beach Wrecks” in Dorset and helped test the underwater dive trail guides for the new visitor trail on the Thorness Bay Wreck for MSDS Marine and Historic England. Unfortunately, our August trip to continue our survey of the Rooswijk Gun Site was less memorable as we picked perhaps the worst week of the UK record breaking summer heatwave and managed only a single days diving.

The conference this year in Newport was in held in partnership with the Friends of the Newport Ship and was a wonderful weekend with both old and new members, and friends selling out the Riverfront Theatre, the site where the Newport Ship was originally found.  The event particularly highlighted to me the importance of partnering with another organisation and the value of taking the conference on the road.  In November next year we will be back in Portsmouth, this time partnering with the Ordnance Society and we are already making plans to hold the 2020 conference in Dublin in partnership with the CHERISH project and the Irish Underwater Council - so make sure you keep November 2020 free. 


On a personal note, during 2018 (and to my great surprise) I managed to convince my wife to don her SCUBA gear for the first time in 17 years and at the same time my two young children qualified as PADI Open Water divers in Menorca. Our final dive of the holiday consisted of the four of us spending 60 minutes together exploring the stunning underwater seascape of the Mediterranean. It was a great feeling when 40 minutes in to the dive, it dawned on me that two more young people have fallen in love with the underwater world and believe it’s important for us all to treasure and protect it.

2019 looks to be an exciting year, with some big news launching in January, our brand new website, and the delivery phase of our Heritage Lottery Grant, which has allowed us to strengthen the core team in the Portsmouth office with Charlotte, our Public Engagement Officer. Charlotte has already begun talking to many members about our marketing and communication methods and will be looking to improve the way we engage with our members and show the public the importance of and the threats to our maritime cultural heritage. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that you manage to spend time with the people you love. I hope that 2019 brings you peace, happiness and the discovery of new experiences that enrich your life.  After all, as we like to say, “Discovery is just the beginning”……

Mark Beattie-Edwards, NAS CEO

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