1.5 Organisation, safety and technical issues
The hit-and-run project ran in tandem with the excavation of the 16th-century merchantman Scheurrak SO 1 (Daalder et al. 1998; Manders 2003) under the assumption that activities offshore could be combined effectively with activities in the Wadden Sea during 14-week summer campaigns out of a fieldwork base on Texel. But calm weather is also required for excavating in the Wadden Sea. The most productive Aanloop Molengat seasons were 1987 and 1992, with 22 and 30 days of work on site. Apart from monitoring missions in 1998 and 2004, work on site was interrupted in 1994, only to be resumed for a two-week campaign in 1999, when a dedicated professional team had been made available (Chart 1). All earlier seasons involved a mixed team, including a gradually increasing core of professional diving archaeologists, a decreasing number of locally hired maritime service personnel and a large number of volunteers, mostly archaeology students and avocational archaeologists – more than a hundred people in total (Chart 2).
Chart 1 Fielddays per season.
Chart 2 Fieldwork man-days per season divided according to staff category. A total of 102 persons took part in the fieldwork operations, spending a total of 1141 man-days on site. 80 % (921 man-days), however, was realized by a core of 28 persons, who each worked more than 10 days on site. 15 of these were employed as staff, 4 were external, each of them engaged from the local maritime community and the 9 others were persevering volunteers.
The frame and its deployment were a solid investment, but proved immensely useful. It served to delimit the site and to provide orientation and a safe and stable working environment in an area with shifting sands and varying surface cover. The camera-navigation bar proved a cumbersome piece of equipment. It needed at least a full diving day to install or remove at the beginning or end of the season. Despite its robustness, it was still subject to swell. It needed a lot of air in its floats to keep it stable, which meant heavy work on the winches to move it around. It was the sort of equipment that assumes priority rather than enabling more important work (Keith 1990). Twice, after a storm, it went missing and was replaced by a balanced, single-diver-operated support for camera and flashlights. A well-trimmed diver obtained the same results with the two-lens camera, with far less trouble. Swell was still a problem, but a running current actually had a stabilising effect.
A safety booth was fitted to the frame, inspired by the ‘telephone booth’ of the Yassi Ada excavations (Bass 1968) (see fig. 6). As diving was organised in untendered SCUBA, it was considered an extra support. Although a fixed feature, it was missing when the site was relocated in 1987. Despite heavy welding and bolts, it had been torn from the frame by a trawl net. It is unclear how much the frame moved accordingly, if at all. Damage to the archaeological material seemed very limited. The booth was not replaced. A spare cylinder- or surface-supplied regulator took its place until a system of through-water communication was implemented for the team. The central safety measure was a strict procedure of planning, checks and monitoring of the diving operation.
It was not just the removal of backfill and overburden of sand, but also the cutting away and removing of heavy netting and other alien material that distracted from archaeological work. The hit-and-run strategy was unsatisfactory for these essential activities. The small support vessel Phileas Fogg did not have adequate dredging and lifting equipment, and valuable time was lost as a result. At a particularly critical moment in 1991 it was therefore decided to call on the assistance of the Terschelling-based Duikteam Ecuador and their well-tried diving vessel Ursus II, which had stronger equipment and a compressor.