It’s been a great week in Göteborg – Eva-Britt has been the most fabulous host, Göteborg is a great town and of course the islands are amazing. not to mention to wealth of information that has been obtained – awaiting translation, of course.
The great lump of amber I am holding is wonderful bit if treasure form Nils Eriksson’s past, one brought up in a net from the bottom of the Baltic. Nils was one of several stops, including visiting Sven-Olof Larsson on the island of Hönö, a very much clear-minded gentleman in his 90’s. Another useful visit (complete with a free book) was with Lennart Bornmalm, who has contributed to several book about the fishing community of Bornhuslan. Last but not least, a visit to Stig-Rune Yngvesson – son of my primary patent applicant, Yngve Bernhardsson. A wealth of information and a handful of documents – prefect and of course a welcome conclusion to a week in Göteborg!
L – R: Stig-Rune Yngvesson, Daniel Börjesson and myself
Since last monday I have been in Amsterdam, the city built on herring bones and reclaimed land. I was attending the week-long ISBSA conference – The International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology. One of the great things about maritime archaeology is the sheer variety and scope of this field, with topics varying from an in-depth study of a single Roman barge from 60AD, found in France, to an annual project scanning to seabed of the Zuiderzee to understand the dangerous and swiftly changing tidal channels.
Although I didn’t get much work done PhD wise, succeeding only in catching a cold, I did get a few ideas for future projects and presentations of my own. One interesting project – a student’s master thesis – was about the Dutch watership, a wooden vessel that was in use from around 1600 to about 1800. It was a trawler of sorts then, with a well inside to keep a live catch. It was a popular vessel and got bigger as Amsterdam expanded and the population needed a larger food supply. Later on it was also used as a tug, before being abandoned in favour of other vessel types. Later on in the week I saw a lecture on the seabed survey that was/is being conducted in the Baltic, along where the new pipe line will run. It was interesting to note the number of shipwrecks that were discovered, as well as the suspected shipwrecks and the dis-articulated timbers that litter the seabed.
It got me to thinking less about ships and more about ship gear, as I now wonder how much gear is lying on the bottom, not just the ships themselves. Trawling is almost invisible in archaeology because the gear does not survive – or at least, that is the assumption. But how many of the random, loose timbers that are picked up, dismissed and disposed of are actually a key part of our maritime heritage? I’m sure the maritime historians – and archaeologists – would be very happy to find a 17th century beam from a beam trawl, or a pair of wooden doors from the 1880’s. The net might not survive, but it’s not impossible – rope and organic matter like fabric, leather, hemp and plant material can be found on shipwrecks of all ages, it’s just a matter of their environment and recognising what has been found…
I am slowly falling in love with the British Pathé website – especially the ‘British Instructional Films’. These short films were intended to inform and educate, and mu favourite is this one:
Trawling 1940-1949. A little long at 10 minutes, it takes the viewer through a day at sea with a ship called ‘Jacqueline’. There is a good amount of technical stuff, while the voice-over is in that lovely authoritative BBC World Service accent, guaranteed to ensure tat you are indeed paying attention.
But the ones that caught my attention were these; Nets 1954 and Fishing Industry Exhibition – Grimsby 1956. Both show women (and girls) making nets by – so fast that the eye can barely keep up. Net making is another critical aspect of this PhD study, as the changing materials made stronger nets rather that just larger ones, making pelagic trawling a possibility. Not to mention making their maintenance easier and prolonging the life of the nets significantly. It was in the 1940’s that synthetic materials were first used for fishing nets, eventually replacing natural fibres by 1960.
This also lead me to some footage of a rope factory in the Netherlands, Rope Making Factory for Fishing Fleet 1961. It doesn’t have any sound but it does show the inner workings of the factory, for those as are interested in such things.
A Bygone Craft 1931 caught my attention most of all – but then I wouldn’t mind having a go at building my own coracle!