We are delighted to announce the first ever winner of the MSDS Marine writing competition for 14 – 18 year olds. We recognised that many young people have not had the opportunity of work experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we wanted to do something to help address this. Sadly, its not possible to get young people into the office or out on fieldwork with us yet so we offered another opportunity.
We asked the simple question Why does underwater archaeology excite you and make you want to learn more? and asked young people to apply with a letter answering this. With the support of well known maritime archaeologist Ian Oxley we offered the combined Introduction to Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Archaeology online Nautical Archaeology Society training course as a prize.
The Winner: Claire Ding
Claire is 16 years old and impressed us all with her enthusiasm which shone through in her letter. Claire will be taking the NAS course when it relaunches with a new design next month. We have been so impressed with Claire’s entry that we have decided to make the writing awards an annual event alongside the MSDS Marine Awards – so watch this space! Claire’s winning letter is published in full below and we think you will agree that its a good one.
Claire’s winning letter:
I am writing to gain a chance to undertake a training course of maritime archaeology and underwater archaeology. Currently, I study English Literature, History of Art and Religion, Philosophy & Ethics for my A-levels at St Swithun’s school as a lower six student and I am sixteen years old. I have always had a curiosity for understanding and exploring human nature and the human past, in particular through analysing our material culture; this together with my global travelling experiences and bilingual upbringing have led me to develop a passion for archaeology and anthropology, which is the course that I would like to apply for university.
For me, the excitement of underwater archaeology comes from the fact that the process of under covering hidden treasures and wonders takes places in a different realm. As a child I was fascinated by mysterious maritime tales and immediately become interested in this discipline after a museum visit in China, where I saw an exhibition of cultural relics of the reign of Emperor Kangxi discovered on the wreckage Wan Jiao No. 1. I was stunned by those blue and white porcelain bowls, plates, and pieces of ceramics and the intense expeditions that allowed me to view those findings. Later I found the challenges present in expeditions and the need for archaeologists to combat them make underwater archaeology even more intriguing. Weather conditions and tides can stymie an expedition, affecting archaeologists in diving; water is dynamic and so objects are susceptible to its ebb and flow, adding difficulties in finding objects. Nevertheless, materials are more likely to break when an archaeologist is handling them underwater, which decreases efficiency in identifying and interpreting them.
I would like to explore many elements of underwater archaeology further. One of them is the understanding of technologies involved in an expedition, in particular new technologies and their effects on maritime archaeology. In my independent research, I found out LiDAR is an exciting modern tool; it realises the possibility for archaeologists to measure and map objects and structures that would otherwise remain hidden, and computers can use the data to construct a 3D map of the area; I found this extremely exciting. I am also interested in the conservation of archaeological findings, especially since water is likely to erode them. I once had a conversation with a staff at the local museum about conversing objects, and the difficulties present stunned me for one not only needs to consider alternatives in operating the original object, but also visitors’ experience of it. In addition, since many divers are archaeologists, I would like to learn about diving skills that are required and how teamwork operates underwater.
Ultimately, my interest in underwater archaeology arises from my passion for archaeology that is an understanding of our heritage and how it continues to shape our present human lives. I believe to have an opportunity to take part in this course will complement my studies hugely.