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Divers24 on the trail of wrecks - Diving with the Polish Maritime Museum

The Divers24 team were invited to take part in a joint dive with staff from the Polish Maritime Museum as part of the Cultural Heritage programme. The sailing date was set for Friday, 24 June, at 8.00 a.m. We didn’t really know what to expect, but saw it as a great opportunity to get an
Published: July 11, 2011 - 13:01
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 07:15
Divers24 on the trail of wrecks – Diving with the Polish Maritime Museum

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The Divers24 team were invited to take part in a joint dive with staff from the Polish Maritime Museum as part of the Cultural Heritage programme. The sailing date was set for Friday, 24 June, at 8.00 a.m. We didn’t really know what to expect, but saw it as a great opportunity to get an up-close look at the work of marine archaeologists.

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First thing in the morning Adam and I checked in at the agreed place. It turned out that we were the first to arrive. After greeting with the captain, we started to repack our equipment on the boat. We were to set off to the dive site on a sensational 32m long vessel – M/Y Safira. Freshly renovated, the boat looked great. It could provide ideal conditions for a much larger diving team than the one that came on board that day.

After a short time, the next members of today’s expedition started to appear. The whole expedition was led by the project manager, Dr Waldemar Ossowski, at whose invitation we arrived. After being introduced and greeted by the rest of the Museum staff, we went to the mess hall for a briefing. We found out that the main task of the project, which was co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, was the inventory of 5 newly discovered shipwrecks (15th – 18th century), located in the area of the historical entrance to the port of Gdańsk, with particular emphasis on the protection of archaeological artefacts.

The wrecks in question lie deep in the silt and at present only a small part remains exposed. During the course of the work, documentation is being compiled for each vessel on the visible remains of the hull and the cargo they carried, and the depth and extent of the remaining structural elements is being determined using a sediment polygraph. As a result of the survey, new sources of information on the history of shipbuilding and Baltic shipping are expected to be obtained.

Divers24 with the Polish Maritime Museum – Gallery


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In total, there are 7 divers on board that day including myself and Adam, representing the Divers24 crew. We initially split into 3 groups of 2 divers each. A couple of Museum staff go first, followed by myself and Magdalena Nowakowska, an experienced archaeologist and manager of the archaeological project in Crimea – Crimea Projectand as the last to go into the water are Adam and Dr. W. Ossowski.

The purpose of our dives is to retrieve part of the cargo, in this case a stone, for further research to determine where it came from (most likely Scandinavia) and what was its supposed destination. Another point was to check if there is a buried wreck, of a vessel carrying unusual stones.

The first pair, during their underwater shift, selected an object of suitable size (the stone had to be as small as possible so as not to cause problems in transport) and proceeded to uncover the place where the wreck was most likely to be. We didn’t have to wait long for the results, after only a short while we found elements of a wooden construction. The rest of the day was spent uncovering the sediment-covered boat. Working in shifts of 1.30 hours, we uncovered a large part of the side of the boat, which was documented on video and photo material.

Divers24 with the Polish Maritime Museum – Gallery


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When it was our turn to take our shift, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been involved in a similar venture before, but I was excited. How often does it happen that you discover a wreck? And a wooden one, from the 18th century at the latest! It’s not a Spanish galleon with gold, but since I was a kid, watching similar things on TV, I dreamed of something like this and finally the dream came true. For an hour and a half, Magda and I uncovered the remains of the wooden structure. It’s a great feeling to bring back the memory of something that had been lying under water for several hundred years. At some point, I stop looking at my watch and only when the next shift appears, I realize that it is time to go back and leave “our” find.

Once on board, we talk a lot, there are a lot of questions and speculations. At this stage it is impossible to say what the structure is, and the same goes for the cargo. The stones are worked, all round in shape, but we have no idea what they might have been used for. Without more detailed analysis, we can only speculate further. The shift during which Adam and Dr Ossowski work underwater is, for my part, a constant staring into the water, as if I could see what’s happening below. I know I can’t, but I’m looking, thinking and trying to embrace the fact that I’ve just taken part in finding something truly unique.

On the way back the weather breaks, but we manage to avoid a downpour. A light rain falls when we are back in the harbour. We say goodbye to the museum staff and thank them for the opportunity to participate in the dive and watch their work from close up. On our return we exchange observations and impressions of the past day with Adam. We both gained valuable experience that no dive centre has on offer. I hope that this is only the beginning of this journey.

Divers24 with the Polish Maritime Museum – Gallery

Source: Divers24
Photo: Divers24 and Central Maritime Museum

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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