UK diver Steve Cook has had a whirlwind romance with the NAS. He first heard about the Society in late March 2016, yet by early April he was already acting as a volunteer diver on one of the UK protected wrecks that Society members works on every year. NAS Peta Knott reports on member who has jumped in with both feet.

Steve Cook is part of Swanick Divers, a group of likeminded people on England’s south coast who aim to introduce new divers to a broad range of diving experiences—including archaeological wreck diving. He first encountered the Society when our CEO, Mark Beattie-Edwards, was invited to give a talk to the group at Andark Dive Centre, just outside Southampton, Hampshire, UK, aimed at enriching their diving experience through nautical archaeology. 

“Mark’s passion for archaeological diving was clear. It made me want to be part of that world.”

Within 48 hours of attending the talk, Steve had signed up to be an NAS member, completed all three online courses, booked his Recorder and Surveyor skills days, been to Gosport, Hampshire, UK to visit the Holland 1 submarine at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and asked if he could be part of the first diving session for 2017 on the protected Normans’ Bay Wreck in East Sussex, UK.

We at NAS office were wondering how it was that Steve had managed to become such an instantly active member, and how could we replicate this in the future. While a significant factor was clearly related to work flexibility and other life commitments, we wanted to find out the other factors that might inspire other instantly active members in the future. With this in mind, we grilled Steve in between dives on the Normans’ Bay wreck to find out more about him.

Steve works for the UK’s National Health Service, where he plans the training requirements for the staff of no less than three hospitals. But he has had a diverse career path, having trained as a palaeontologist, done some terrestrial archaeology, and worked in the military in search and rescue.

Clearly, Steve’s powers of observation and attention to detail apparent in his working life are perfect skills for nautical archaeology. But he says that it was Mark’s enthusiasm for his work and for underwater archaeology in general that inspired him to jump into the society with both feet. 

“The Normans’ Bay wreck particularly appealed to me because of its great age from the seventeenth or eighteenth century and the mystery of its identity.” 

Following Mark’s recommendations, he joined the NAS and then followed the online instructions to complete the Society’s three e-learning courses: Introduction to Maritime Archaeology; Underwater Archaeology; and Intertidal and Terrestrial Archaeology. He recalls that these courses were easy and interesting to do, and gave a snapshot introduction to archaeology. But he could also see how they prepared him for later, practical training of the Skills Days.

While Steve has to wait until June to complete the Skills Days,, he’s certainly not wasting any time getting practical experience. He has already been seen round the Normans’ Bay site moving cement-filled buckets which support the ground lines that guide divers around the site. Who knows what he will get up to when he returns to the wreck in future seasons: measuring cannon, surveying galley bricks, recording wood or possibly laying out more ground lines? 

“I think that archaeologists often forget what a ‘wow’ factor wrecks can have for first time visitors. This was certainly my  experience on the Normans’ Bay wreck – all those cannon!” 

If you would like to hear more about Steve’s experience on the Normans’ Bay wreck in his own words, you can watch a video of him on the Periscope app and is now viewable via the following link:

If Steve’s words inspire you or others to become involved in underwater archaeology, the best place to start is buy joining us and signing up for one of our courses or events, and you might even see Steve there. 

Image: Steve at the Diving Museum in Gosport, on the NAS Glass Making course, helping on the Normans Bay Wreck and on the Members trip to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm