Marine archaeology as a hobby

Finnish sea areas offer endless exploration for divers engaged in marine archaeology. In the Baltic Sea, the wrecks of wooden ships survive for up to hundreds of years even after the ship sank. Recreational divers are active throughout Finland, especially in coastal areas. Both wrecks and diving enthusiasts can also be found in the inland waters of our country.

Sanna Paukku

The author is a member of the Finnish Marine Archaeological Society and the diving society H2O.

Diving clubs offer marine archaeological activities

Many diving clubs operating in Finland offer their members a framework for safely pursuing their hobby in good company. Several clubs have sub-branches which are focused on marine archaeology, which is open to all club members interested in this hobby.

Many amateur clubs provide information and pictures of their research projects to the Finnish Heritage Agency, as well as to other channels, such as the Finnish shipwreck information site, i.e. Thus, their material can also be used by other enthusiasts in this hobby.

Happy diver on the surface.

Wrecks as a research subject

In many diving clubs, the activities of marine archaeology enthusiasts are largely focused on annual field work-camps. One or more wrecks are often selected as research subjects. They can be found through archival research or by employing a side-scan sonar at sea.

Often, the location information of a research object which is selected based on its archival data is uncertain and finding the object first requires exploratory dives.

During the camp, sites are surveyed using non-invasive methods and information is gathered by observing, measuring, drawing, and by taking photos. Exploratory research on wrecks requires a research permit from the Finnish Heritage Agency and an archaeologist as research director. After the camp, a report is prepared on the site based on all the information collected.

Marine archaeology enthusiasts are also often involved in research on underwater sites organised by the Finnish Heritage Agency or other such maritime operators.

Enthusiasts have been involved in marine archaeological activities since its inception in the 1950s and with their extensive diving experience, they are often a great help in the occasionally demanding conditions. Many new wrecks have been discovered and continue to be found by marine archaeology amateurs. The Finnish Heritage Agency must always be notified of a new discovery.

Members of the Kotka Divers Club in the Ruotsinsalmi Strait, south of Kotka City.

Versatile expertise is valued

While many marine archaeology enthusiasts are divers, these pursuits also require knowledge and talents above the surface. In club activities, everyone participates in projects according to their own interests and expertise.

For example, areas of expertise may include, boating skills, the skills to employ side-scan sonar or underwater video and photography, IT skills for working with three-dimensional models of wrecks, as well as language skills to help interpret old documents or general historical knowledge.

Most amateurs are interested in gathering information about subsurface objects by diving, while others are passionate about underwater photography.

Some enthusiasts are interested in archival research, which can be used to find information on shipwrecks that have occurred in certain sea areas. Such information may be used to identify wrecks found on the seabed or to find a completely new and interesting project from the archives.

Although marine archaeology can also be practised alone, it is more rewarding and fun within a like-minded group. Together with experts from different fields, it is possible to take on larger projects and produce a wide range of information about them for both enthusiasts and authorities alike.

It should also be noted that mapping the seafloor is subject to a permit.

Learn more about the activities of the The Finnish Marine Archaeological Society.