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Inspection visit to the wreck of the Vrouw Maria 23 - 27 July 2007.
The aims of the inspection visit primarily concerned the protection of the wreck. The wreck needs to be inspected at regular intervals to monitor changes to its condition. The previous time it was possible to dive to the wreck was spring 2004.
Changes to the condition of the wreck are monitored using photography. The aim of the inspection visit was to take a comprehensive number of photographs at the monitoring points. As well as taking inspection photographs, the aim was to continue photographing the wreck for a book intended for a general audience, which is a joint project between the National Board of Antiquities and the group working on the book.
Work had started on studying the condition of the timber of the wreck in partnership with Helsinki University, the Botanical Museum and the conservation laboratory of the National Museum of Finland. The aim was to raise timber as sample material for laboratory analysis. As well as timber from the wreck, there were also timber samples on the sea bed, which had been in place for five years. The aim was to raise these timber samples in aerobic conditions and the sample tubes which had been in anaerobic conditions. Aerobic samples here refers to pieces of wood which have been in the water on top of the sea bed next to the wreck. The anaerobic timber samples were buried in the sediment on the sea bed next to the wreck. The aim was also to raise timber from the wreck for analysis.
At this point the greatest risk to the condition of the hull was posed by the upright masts. In previous years it had been noted that these were moving, but it had not been possible to ascertain the extent of the movement. The aim of the inspection visit was to attach a measuring device to the mast to monitor the amount of sway.
It is known that the Vrouw Maria's crew spent the night on a nearby skerry during the shipwreck. No attempts had previously been made to identify the site of their camp. Permission to land was obtained from Metsähallitus and the intention was to search for traces of the camp on nearby islands using a metal detector and by taking soil samples using an auger drill.
Metsähallitus' Velmu survey group was invited to monitor the inspection dives as they would be surveying the nature of the underwater protected area later in August. The local diving club from Parainen Pargas Tumlare were also invited to attend. Members of the club had been searching for the wreck of the Vrouw Maria since 1972.
Monday 23 July 2007
Arrived from Kasnäs to the former coastguard station on Bodö and cleaned the station. The wind was too strong for the support vessel to reach the waters above the wreck. For this reason the auxiliary boat Meri 2 took a small group to assess the situation in the protected area. Here the GPS coordinates of two mooring buoys were obtained and it was possible to plan a diving operation for the following days in greater detail. At the same time the possible landing site of the Vrouw Maria's crew was evaluated, as the wind conditions were almost identical to those during the wreck in 1771.
Tuesday 24 July 2007
Wednesday 25 July 2007
Working day began at 3.45 in the morning when the support vessel m/s Teredo left for the protected area around the Vrouw Maria wreck. It arrived at six. The wreck was first located and a guide rope lowered next to it for the divers. There were strong swells in the protected area due to the long period of high wind and the support vessel was rocking attached to one buoy. Pasi Raasakka and Jussi Kaasinen dived first and moved the weight on the guide rope next to the wreck. Visibility at the wreck was extremely poor but the camera equipment available nevertheless enabled a good monitoring photograph to be taken of the wreck. The second group of divers was Petri Puromies, Juha Flinkman and Tuomas Pensala. Petri Puromies photographed the wreck while Juha Flinkman and Tuomas Pensala lit the details to be photographed.
In a follow-up dive in the afternoon the whole five-man diving team went into the water at the same time. The mast-o-meter designed and built by Jussi Kaasinen was attached to the mainmast of the wreck. The attachment point was beneath the cap on the mast. The operation to attach the equipment was photographed using two cameras. After attaching the mast-o-meter, the divers descended to the deck level where a timber sample was selected and placed in a bag to be raised.
Once the wreck research group had returned to the surface, Metsähallitus' Velmu working group went to inspect the Vrouw Maria. The Velmu working group intends to survey the protected area around the Vrouw Maria in more detail in August.
Towards the evening the wind rose and changed direction so the support vessel had to be cast off from the buoy. Two auxiliary vessels were present, and the tow rope of one of these was sucked into the support vessel's screw. A diver went to cut the rope, after which the transfer to Bodö began. During the journey the photographic material recorded during the day was examined. The wind forecast for Thursday had also been confirmed and it was judged that it would be possible to dive between midday and 3 p.m. The team arrived back at Bodö at 8 p.m.
Thursday 26 July 2007
Friday 27 July 2007
Cleaned and cleared the old coastguard station at Bodö. Left for Kasnäs at 10 a.m., arriving in Kasnäs at 2 p.m. where everything was packed into the cars. The support vessel m/s Teredo remained in Kasnäs to wait for the research group arriving on the Sunday to study the Egelskär medieval wreck site.
It was planned that the work of the inspection visit would be completed over two days and this time the weather conditions permitted only one and a half days of work at the wreck of the Vrouw Maria. The tasks planned that remained uncompleted were raising the aerobic and anaerobic timber samples. It was not possible to get the support vessel above the wreck so that the samples could be located using the robot camera. Visibility conditions were too challenging for the divers to retrieve the samples.
The equipment to record the sway of the mast was retrieved after an autumn storm. Otherwise no changes were observed in the condition of the wreck and monitoring is able to continue as before. Carried out in this way, diving at the wreck of the Vrouw Maria cost approximately €500/hour. This total does not include salary costs nor the amount of voluntary work which amounted to over half the working time spent.
All our thanks go to all those who took part in the research visit and all the people and organisations who helped the working group during the visit.
Hylkysaari, 30 July 2007
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Last updated 30.10.2015
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