1.6 Progress, consistency and an integrated site plan
Conditions were hardly ever as initially expected and support activities such as technical preparation and cleaning before a photo-documentation run took up almost as much bottom time as reference measuring, setting up temporary data points, excavation, and recording, labelling and removal of find material (Chart 3). Data gathering spanned a period of nearly fifteen years but the total time spent on-site at the bottom surface remained limited to slightly less than 970 hours, the equivalent of what a team of six can achieve on a landsite in a four-week campaign.
Chart 3 Bottom minutes per season according to category of activity. Of a grand total of 58170 bottom minutes, 27902 were used in supportive and technical activities, whereas 30268 minutes were used directly in excavation and data gathering. Recording made up for 9834 minutes in total.
It was only after the 1988 season that the first layer was removed. The excavation of find layers adjoining the wreck mound began simultaneously, producing sketches, profiles and small finds that added to the variety of the assemblage. During the 1991 season, disappointing visibility conditions and a sand dune on part of the site led to a reconsideration of the documentation strategy (Briefing report 12 July 1991). Interestingly, this was almost exactly halfway (455 hours had been spent underwater, with another 515 to come). It was decided to remain true to the original recording strategy after the calculation that switching to conventional documentation in sketches or trilateration would take another 400 underwater hours of expert recording, a luxury that could not be afforded, even though more expert staff were available than at the start. In the end, expert recording accounted for only 164 underwater hours in total. Nevertheless, it took until the productive season of 1992 before a second layer could be documented vertically in full. Most of the subsequent removal and lifting of cargo material was finished when the project was discontinued in 1994. The excavation of the southeastern side was finalised in 1999. Although the fieldwork took far longer than the five seasons originally planned, it stayed within the original project design and budget.
In hindsight, the photographic record proves well up to the questions to be resolved. There is enough redundancy in verticals and obliques, and with modern computers and software it has been relatively easy to join the verticals in a 2D mosaic (fig. 9). A more elaborate site plan was prepared independently of this, integrating all types of data gathered in photographs, sketches and direct measurements (see fig. 2). The aim to integrate all observations in a three-dimensional model was abandoned in favour of achieving this result, but it would still be possible to create one if sufficient reason arises.