One of the challenges faced by the practitioners of underwater cultural heritage is that of inaccuracies in the recorded locations of shipwreck sites. An opportunity to meet this challenge is found in the numerous remote sensing databases that have been gathered for purposes other than archaeology, such as industry and geographical research.
In order to test these opportunities a non-profit organisation ShipShapeSearchers has been created. The aim is to demonstrate a successful methodology that reveals the precise location of known and unknown shipwreck sites. The objectives will cover varying remote sensing types – such as airborne Lidar, airborne and satellite hyperspectral and multispectral data as well as multibeam sonar. The environments will be above water, in the intertidal zone as well as submerged.
This ShipShapeSearchers project has begun with a pilot study. The aim is to test how the sites appear in the data and to explore processing techniques to find and analyse them. The site chosen for this initial study is that of a ‘shipwreck graveyard’ and consists of hulks ranging over a long time period (showing degrees of degradation), varying construction types (wooden hulled, composite and steel) and varying environmental conditions allowing for relative ease of detection. All of these attributes gives the area of interest the nature of a laboratory.
The pilot project will focus firstly on airborne Lidar and multispectral remote sensing techniques. The results, demonstrating best methodology will then be applied to the surrounding environment to detect as yet undiscovered sites, and in doing so showing proof of concept.
ShipShapeSearchers will continue to train ourselves and increase our expertise in identifying cultural heritage structures, particularly ship structures in landscapes (both terrestrial and submerged). In doing so we will provide advice to archaeologists, other cultural heritage practitioners and stakeholders in the community.
Code of Ethics
ShipShapeSearchers abide by the Code of Ethics as set out by the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. http://www.aima-underwater.org.au/laws-and-ethics/
The organization also strongly backs UNESCO guidelines and the ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/underwater-cultural-heritage/2001-convention/