The Nautical Archaeology Society is dedicated to delivering innovative, quality, fit for purpose research into all aspects of maritime archaeology. Whether investigating standards, competency or training in maritime archaeology, or individual archaeological sites, the NAS is committed to sound, equitable, evidence-based research for the advancement of the discipline.

As part of the original NAS Training Programme the NAS Part 2 report provides a great opportunity for people to put their learning into practice in the field. The NAS hold a library of many of the NAS part 2 reports submitted over 20 years. 


Members' Research Group 

The NAS is here to help members get involved with nautical archaeology whether by making members aware of ongoing projects, running courses on various aspects of a project or giving help in furthering projects. 

Archaeology has changed from a dry & dusty collection of artefacts sat in a cabinet in a dim & dusty museum to interpreting how people lived and worked in a bygone age and bringing it back to life.   This involves as much time spent researching the subject as it does working on the actual project. 

We are lucky in the UK by having a treasure of archives, in particular the National Archives at Kew (London) where documents are available from the Royal Navy, the Board of Trade, High Court of Admiralty and many other sources which can give colour and information to many maritime projects.

During the winter months a group of NAS members gather at The National Archives to garner information about varied projects.  Some work on their own projects, others photograph documents for NAS members who cannot get to London easily.   The day is as much a social event as a working party, coffee & lunch breaks being good times to catch up, to discuss what the members are involved in and to get to know each other.  Having a friend to help read the 16th, 17th 18th century handwriting is always useful and NAS members who are visiting for the first time are welcomed.

Members who need or want information which is available at Kew only need to ask for the group to look it up.  High profile projects such as Erebus & Terror have benefitted alongside one ship’s registration document copied for an individual. 

Your project is not discussed without your permission, but we do ask that you mention the NAS Members’ Research Group when you write up and publish, or in your presentations.

If you want to join or to ask for some research, contact the NAS office.


Benchmarking Competence Requirements

The Benchmarking Competence Requirements study published in 2009 looked at what makes someone a competent maritime archaeologist and made recommendations for how to make competency of skills the key for future participation in maritime archaeology in the UK.

What is competence?

The Nautical Archaeology Society has now published its study into what makes someone a competent maritime archaeologist and has made recommendations for how to make competency of skills the key for future participation in maritime archaeology in the UK.

Two years in the making, and commissioned by English Heritage, the project has been undertaken to relate archaeological skills training to standards. The research was designed to identify the range and level of skills required in maritime archaeology, define competencies, identify and define how ‘fit-for-purpose’ training is developed in order to meet those standards, and to determine how sufficient opportunities can be provided to both gain and maintain competencies.

Input into the study was sought from a variety of individuals and key stakeholder organisations interested in maritime archaeology, education, training and standards, with workshops held in Edinburgh, London and Plymouth in 2008.  The consultation focused on the needs of employers’ and the public interest for specific competencies. The study also used four practitioner case studies to assess whether the UK National Occupational Standards for Archaeology and the National Vocational Qualification in Archaeological Practice are appropriate mechanisms for validation of practitioner competency in maritime archaeology.  Finally the study was supplemented by an online survey questionnaire designed to inform the consultation.

The recommendations in the report include:

  • Promotion and support for UK National Occupational Standards for Archaeology
  • Encouraging the use of the National Vocational Qualification in Archaeological Practice
  • Creation of a competency scheme to allow verification of practitioners abilities
  • Creation of standards for peer reviewing of archaeological work
  • Future use of the European Qualification Framework to harmonise training standards
  • Need to increase practitioners abilities to work on and understand submerged landscapes and industrial archaeological remains
  • A training strategy that incorporates skills acquisition via short course attendance and increasing opportunities for experience and mentoring for practitioners through collaborative long term research driven training projects to help bridge the gap between academic education and vocational skills training.

Mark Beattie-Edwards, Programme Director with the Nautical Archaeology Society says that “It is great to be able to release the results of the benchmarking study, which we hope will contribute to the development of coordinated training provision for maritime archaeologists, encompassing the aspirations and needs of both professional and avocational archaeologist.  However the important next step is to act swiftly and put forward proposals to the government’s heritage agencies to act on these recommendations”.

Ian Oxley, Head of Maritime Archaeology at English Heritage has said “This innovative project has helped to define the training and knowledge requirements of a maritime archaeologist, building on earlier work commissioned by English Heritage. With this information, we shall be able to devise training strategies to ensure the development and continuation of appropriate expertise for the future, particularly with respect to continued exploitation and interest in our seas.”

The full report can be downloaded here.


Local Economic Benefit of a Protected Wreck

In 2012 the NAS was commissioned by English Heritage to undertake a study looking at the value of a protected wreck to a local economy. This study, which was published in 2013, looked at the visitor diver trail on the protected wreck of the Coronation in Plymouth Sound in Devon which has proved to be very successful in attracting a large number of visiting divers every year since its inception. Nearly 1000 divers visited the wreck of the Coronation in 2012 alone. The study asked those people that had visited the protected wreck about their experience and focus specifically on the economic spend of their visit and thereby illustrated the value of the visitor trail to the local economy of Plymouth.


The visitor diver trail on the protected wreck of the Coronation (Offshore) in Plymouth Sound in Devon has proved to be very successful in attracting a large number of visiting divers every year since its inception. Over 1000 visits were undertaken on the Coronation (Offshore) wreck in 2011 and around 700 visits were carried out in 2012. This study asked those people that had visited the protected wreck in 2012 about their experience and focused specifically on the economic spend of their visit(s) and thereby illustrates the value of the visitor trail to the local economy of Plymouth in 2012. The results of the survey demonstrate that the visitor trail was worth £42,557 to the local economy in 2012, an average of just over £60.00 per visit.


Over the last 10 years English Heritage has supported the establishment of a number of visitor trails on several wreck sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, including on HMS Hazardous, HMS Colossus, the Needles wreck, the Norman’s Bay Wreck as well as the Coronation in Plymouth Sound in Devon.  These visitor trails have all aimed to facilitate and thereby increase public access to heritage assets on the seabed. Naturally many lessons have been learnt by each trail and some have been more successful than others in terms of annual visitor numbers.

The research aims of this project were put a value to the local economy of the diver trail on the designated wreck site of the Coronation (Offshore) in Plymouth.

Images on this page courtesy of the Coronation Wreck Project.

The objectives of the project were:

• To determine how many people annually visit the wreck of the Coronation (Offshore) and other diver trails established on wrecks protected by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973
• To determine the items that people spend money on during their visit(s) to Plymouth
• To determine the individual economic spend during their visit(s) to Plymouth
• To determine the total annual spend by divers visiting Plymouth to dive the Coronation
• To determine the economic value of the Coronation to the local economy
• To determine the lessons learnt by the Coronation trail project as well as on other trails that have been established in England including HMS Colossus and the Norman’s Bay Wreck.


From the 74 respondents to the survey, 69 people undertook 105 visits to the Coronation as part of the wreck diver trail in 2012.  These 69 individuals spent a total of £8,085, an average spend of £117.17 per person and an average spend of £77.00 per visit.  In addition to the visits to the diver trail undertaken in 2012, the 69 respondents undertook a total of 49 visits to the site as part of the Coronation Wreck Project which is actively researching the site and maintaining the diver trail. These respondents spent a total of £1,388, undertaking these visits to the site, spending an average of £28.32 per visit.

Using the survey results it was possible to interpolate what the total annual spend total by divers visiting Plymouth to dive the Coronation. The only difficulty lay in judging the number of visits actually undertaken in 2012. As already discussed, there is a substantial difference between the number of named divers on the English Heritage approved licences for the year (264 names) compared to the number of visits/dives undertaken that have been provided by the licensees of the site - around 700 visits. Using this figure and with information provided by the site licencee, Mr Mark Pearce it was estimated that the local economic benefit of the Coronation Wreck Diver Trail in 2012 was £42,557.

Lessons learnt

• Don’t underestimate the maintenance work required for the visitor trail.

• Visitors are willing to donate to the visitor trail as a “thank-you” for the experience. But it needs to be clear that this donation will be used to maintain the visitor trail.

• Underwater waterproof guide books are essential with simple words in large fonts and illustrations and map to help visitors.

• Don’t underestimate the time it takes to follow up with the visiting divers to obtain their dive statistics, feedback, copies of photographs, etc

• No matter how well signposted and labelled, visiting divers will still get lost – just accept it.

• Trails on sites with good in-water visibility are likely to attract most visitors.

• Trails in areas with strong diving infrastructure (such as charter boats, slipways and dive shops) are likely to attract most visitors.

• Marketing is essential – if people do not know about it, how can they wish to visit it.

• It is important too to have a specific shot mark location, away from the site to protect the artefacts from damage from shot weights being dropped over board.

• Permanent buoyage would be preferable to aid people finding the site in the first place – after all visitors to a castle, prehistoric hillfort or historic house don’t have to do it with only a rough estimate of where the heritage attraction is.

• Land based displays for each trail would be beneficial to raising awareness to the non-diving public.

• Small amount of funding should be allocated to each trail to help support the maintenance costs of the trails. This low level grant aid should not have to be “bidded” for as the process is too time consuming for the volunteer licensees who in the most part are administering the visitor trails.

The full report including the results to the online survey and the recommendations can be downloaded here.

The NAS is very grateful for the support of the team on the Coronation Wreck Project especially Mark Pearce and Ginge Crook and is very happy to have made a donation to the project, which we hope will help them not only continue to open up access to the site, but also to research the site and make new exciting discoveries.