Currently, Mel Taylor is a COVID-19 fighting nurse by day and an armchair avocational archaeologist by night. While she can’t get out and about investigating wrecks underwater, she’s discovered that there’s an awful lot you can discover online. Find out what she discovered here...

March this year saw the way in which we ordinarily go about our lives change beyond recognition. With the restrictions on social activities put in place to reduce the infection rate of COVID-19 we have not been able to indulge our usual passions - which at this time of year usually sees the return of scuba diving in the coastal waters of the UK and our return to investigating underwater cultural heritage up close and personal! However, all may not be lost, although restricted from our outdoor pursuit of heritage, we can indulge in armchair archaeological research. Something that I for one am thankful for, as a distraction from my on-going day job as part of a team of research nurses working on the COVID-19 trials.


Investigating shipwrecks from the comfort of your PC may not seem like much fun, when compared to going to a site, but it does have its advantages. Researching online can be done whilst having a gin and tonic (not something recommended when diving a site)! There are many vessels around the UK for which little or no information is available within the current records. Even the identity of some vessels is unclear – all that is known is the name of a ship and that might not even be correct. Can documents available on-line help unravel these mysteries and so help build upon the known archaeological data?


This is a question a small group of NAS members, the self-named Warren Chasers, has set out to try and answer in relation to two wreck sites located at the Warren on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. Currently they are identified as Fosil/Fossil and Maria – but we’re not so sure!



Working from our homes, across the UK and communicating via instant messaging and webcams, we have started to work together looking at records that are available for on-line. So far we have found that there is a lot of information out there, from local history group websites, to Lloyds Registers, newspaper archives and the National Archives.


The information is helping us build a picture and will enable us to target our research better when current restrictions are lifted and we can once again go to Kew and other such repositories of archives currently not available on-line (not everything is digitised yet). It is also giving us the opportunity (or excuse) to stay in touch with friends during the lock-down which can be a big positive for all, even if you don’t think you need it - seeing faces other than your immediate family is a psychological boost (no matter how much you love your family).


This is a NAS research project that is supported by CHERISH and the results of our research will be made public at the end of the year. We’ll let you know whether the two wrecks are Fosil/Fossil and Maria or not!



However, if you want to do a bit of armchair archaeology for yourself, the Malvern Archaeological Diving Unit and NAS have just launched the Welsh Wreck Web Research Project to explore the on-line archives around known sites in Wales. This is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in archaeology to get involved with archival research and add to the archaeological record whilst observing the restrictions on outdoor activities in a focused way.


Alternatively, if you have a site closer to you why not look at that and see if you can re-discover its story? All you need to start your search is to type in a name or location and see what you can discover!

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