Christian Dalton, a recent Maritime Archaeology graduate, joined us for his second survey of the Sandwich Flats. With a song stuck in his head, and a keen interest in photogrammetry, find out what he discovered here...

Back in October when I first volunteered for fieldwork on the Sandwich flats, I couldn’t get songs by Blondie out of my head. While recording some of the partially-submerged boats, the words “the tide is high but I’m holding on” were stuck, echoing in my ears before we retreated from the incoming tide. However, this second fieldwork trip was a very different story. This time around we were spoilt by the spring tides, which revealed ‘new’, previously-buried material that we hadn’t seen before.   


As a recent graduate in Maritime Archaeology I’m always looking for exciting fieldwork projects to be involved in and to improve my skills. Last year, when I first heard about the NAS & MSDS Marine running the project I had no idea that there would be so many wrecks on the foreshore. While the fieldwork in October was a success, we were batted back by the incoming tides, and it seemed that the flats weren’t yet ready to reveal all their secrets.

One of the reasons why this kind of fieldwork is important is the fact that there is a very small window of time to record these shipwrecks, not just because of the tides, but also throughout the year. Each time we return to the site, the sands have shifted, burying wrecks we saw before in (relatively) full splendour, and potentially revealing something hardly seen before. All of this work is underpinned by the fact that many of the volunteers are locals; our eyes and ears on the ground informing on the conditions of the wrecks and any changes.

While we returned hoping that the storms had revealed something new, we were instead greeted by a thick fog blanketing the site. The last time I’d been here I was involved in the planning and recording of the wrecks, although this time round I was hoping to practice some photogrammetry on the boats. This technique involves taking pictures of an object in a systematic way, which is then used to build a 3D model of the object. The software identifies patterns and common points in the images which then meshes together to create a fully interactable model. Which you can imagine foggy conditions hardly help with.

Luckily, before John Carpenter’s vengeful mariners emerged from the fog, it dissipated, allowing me to trial a very quick photogrammetry recording of one of the boats. Despite expecting some poor results due to the conditions and quick recording, I was able to recreate the wreck with some surprising results.


The good luck kept coming the next day when the group decided to head to a new area of the beach. Stretching out across the flats in a field walking line we aimed to record new finds such as mobile timbers or wooden stakes. After photographing and recording a few of these, on the way back we came across a very special wreck emerging from the water. As Jack, was examining the wreck for clues about its construction, age and origin we began setting up for a recording of the wreck. Interestingly, this looked like an actual shipwreck, having been broken away from the keel. Hopefully next time we visit, we’ll be able to uncover even more information about it as well as any other potential wreck.

Each time I undertake fieldwork with the NAS  I find the eagerness of the volunteers amazing. Getting up at the crack of dawn, shivering in the morning cold is all worth it for the valuable work into these relatively unknown wrecks and the sharing of our investigation. I can only hope that we continue to find out more about them and that our eager volunteers still enjoy it! Fingers crossed the tide isn’t high the next time….

If you're interested in learning more about historic boats like the ones in Sandwich, and how they were made, sign up to our 'Historic Wooden Boat and Ship Construction' course in October here

To learn more about our current courses, fieldwork and event opportunities please click here. 

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