Blog Posts, Project News

The Albion Wreck

The Albion Wreck

‘Would you like to spend the day with us on the beach at Marloes, surveying the wreck of The Albion?’  was an invitation I couldn’t refuse.   A month into my new role as PR and Marketing Manager for the CHERISH project, here was a golden opportunity to see the team in action out in the field, doing what they do best. 

So we set off – a team of 6 from the car park at Marloes in Pembrokeshire, dividing the equipment between us and heading for the coast.   We trecked through a field of bemused sheep, onto the Coast Path and were stopped in our tracks by some of the most glorious views in Pembrokeshire.   The sun made a rare appearance for the beginning of February and it felt good to be out and about.

The first stop was at the cliff top opposite Gateholm Island – Marloes beach to our left and to the right, our destination, Albion Sands, named after the wreck we were about to visit and survey.   After an obvious photo opportunity, it was straight to work.  In a precarious position, high above the waves,  Louise Barker, senior archaeological investigator with the CHERISH project,  began drilling a small hole in the rock.  

Archaeologist Louise Barker drilling into the rockface high above the waves
Archaeologist Louise Barker drilling into the rockface high above the waves

“This is an important part of our project” she explained, “placing survey markers at our sites, in order to improve coastal monitoring in the future.   These markers will make it easier for surveyors to return and repeat a survey enabling them to accurately monitor change within a few centimetres.” 

With the small metal marker in place, it was a steep climb down to the beach, with large boulders covered with seaweed providing an extra challenge before we all finally reached the sand.  The day had been chosen for its particularly low tide and the waves were already receding.  Maritime archaeologists Julian Whitewright and Jack Pink, who is also a geophysicist were already pacing the beach, marking out grids for the survey. 

“No-one knows how much of the wreck survives and how much debris has been scattered across the beach.  This geophysics survey should reveal the extent of the wreck” Julian explained. 

Maritime Archaeologist Jack Pink with the magnetometer, Toby Driver preparing to fly the drone
Maritime Archaeologist Jack Pink with the magnetometer, Toby Driver preparing to fly the drone

We could already see a part of the ship – a large iron pole just visible above the waves.  The Albion was a paddle steamer, travelling between Dublin and Bristol in May 1837, carrying a cargo of 50 passengers, around 400 pigs [the number varies according to who you ask!] and a few horses.  Captain Bailey had promised his passengers a fast trip and made the risky decision to sail through Jack Sound instead of the usual route around the back of Skokholm Island.   Accounts vary, but the ship hit a rock and began taking on water, forcing the captain to make the decision to run the ship ashore, crashing at around 5pm on the beach at Marloes

All survived, although not all the pigs made it safely to the top of the cliff – like a scene from the film ‘Whisky Galore!’, there are reports that it was a good year for bacon in the Marloes area! 

The Albion’s crankshaft visible above the waves
The Albion’s crankshaft visible above the waves

Today, the remains of the Albion include the iron frame of the paddle wheel, the plunger from the vacuum pump, a piston rod and much more,  lying beneath the sand.   The paddle steamer was originally around 160 feet long – about the length of 3 railway carriages, and would have revolutionised travel between Ireland and the UK mainland – reducing the time to around a 20 hour trip. 

“It’s a difficult location to get to but worth the effort because this is one of the earliest paddle steamer wrecks in the UK” said Julian, “as far as we know, this is one of the first geophysical survey of a beached wreck in Wales.  By mapping the site, we can understand more about the ship and what happened to it.  It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle except you can’t see all the pieces and they’re the wrong way up!”

A piston from one of the ship’s vacuum pumps
A piston from one of the ship’s vacuum pumps

Dr Toby Driver was also busy on the beach, getting ready to fly a drone over the wreck site.  This would provide vital information about the size of the site. 

“There are roughly 6000 shipwrecks dotted around the Welsh coast – but only 6 of them are protected wrecks.  This is one of the aims of the CHERISH project – to recommend more of these sites for designation as protected monuments because they’re such an important part of our coastal heritage.”

Chris Jessop and Louise Barker at the wreck site
Chris Jessop and Louise Barker at the wreck site

As the tide rolled out, more of the wreck was becoming visible – until it was possible to see the whole of the crankshaft and the frame which would have housed the ship’s engine.   We were joined by local community councillor and Albion enthusiast Chris Jessop who has spent many hours studying the wreck and its history.   Chris was an engineer by training and describes himself as a dedicated beachcomber. 

“Bits of the wreck keep coming ashore – and there’s still timber from the ship on the beach.  Whenever there’s a particularly low tide, I’ll come down here to take more photos.    Through our research, we’ve also discovered a working replica of the ship in Sweden which even has the same engine as the Albion.  There’s also a model of the Albion in the Science Museum in London, what they would have called a ‘boardroom model’ to show investors exactly how the ship would be built.”

Louise Barker and Hannah Genders Boyd at the survey point above Albion Sands
Louise Barker and Hannah Genders Boyd at the survey point above Albion Sands

It was also the first visit to a shipwreck site for another new member of the CHERISH team.  Archaeologist Hannah Genders Boyd started at the same time as me, but working as a data analyst with CHERISH, coming to Wales from the University of Edinburgh where she worked as a research assistant.     

“This is a great chance to see climate heritage in action – by surveying this site, we can raise the profile of the wreck and hopefully gain acknowledgement of its national importance.  The wreck is eroding in all that salt water, so it’s a race against time to monitor the site.   Today is definitely one of those ‘I love my job’ days!”  

It was a race against the tide to complete all the survey work.  Jack Pink from Southampton University was picking up the pace, marching across the beach ‘wearing’ a magnetometer – a frame shaped like rugby posts,  the geophysics kit for capturing archaeological features under the sand.

“This is really cool.  I always get nervous when there’s lots of metal at a site, but we’ve covered a good area today.  We’ve had to race against one of the fastest tide races in the world, but I’m glad to say that my feet are still dry!”

The Albion wreck at low tide
The Albion wreck at low tide

With the tide turning and the waves beginning the cover up the wreck and all its secrets again,  it was time to head back over the boulders and up the steep path to the top of the cliff.  The sun was still out, glistening on the water.  A good day of fieldwork completed, with results still to come. 

Buried treasure on a Welsh beach – still revealing its history 185 years after reaching its final resting place in Pembrokeshire.      

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Tool kit

Aerial Survey

Aerial Survey

Introduction

Aerial photography remains a powerful way to document and illustrate the landscapes of Wales and Ireland. The aerial perspective provides a landscape view and site context, the building blocks for broad-brush landscape characterisation and understanding the historic landscape. The bird’s eye view is a powerful way of exploring sites and landscapes, and for certain types of sites (e.g. cropmarks) is the only effective way of discovering monuments and placing them on record. Within CHERISH aerial photography provides an immediate record of the condition of eroding coastal sites, and allows entire regional coastlines to be rapidly surveyed from the air following storms. Beyond the archaeological uses for recording during primary reconnaissance, interpretation and mapping, they provide excellent materials for teaching and illustration.
Cropmarks from Littlegrange, Ireland, during CHERISH aerial surveys March 2019.
Cropmarks from Littlegrange, Ireland, during CHERISH aerial surveys March 2019.
The use of aerial photographs in archaeology has a history extending back more than 100 years and is recognised as one of the most effective ways of recording sites and landscapes. Archives of aerial photographs are a rich source for identifying otherwise unknown monuments and can provide unique records of landscapes and sites that have been changed or destroyed, while new aerial photography provides a means of recording during primary archaeological reconnaissance. There are three approaches to taking aerial photographs; firstly routine survey to photograph a pre-defined area of land (e.g. area-coverage vertical, usually for planning/cartography/military intelligence) and secondly archaeological reconnaissance by an airborne observer who photographs objects seen and understood to be of interest. The third, recent innovation has been the use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to carry out local aerial surveys of historic sites and buildings.

Aerial photography

Toby Driver carrying out an aerial survey from a light aircraft across the Wexford coastline
Toby Driver carrying out an aerial survey from a light aircraft across the Wexford coastline
Aerial reconnaissance is widely used around the world and is part of the wider discipline of ‘remote sensing’, surveying archaeology in the landscape without actually touching it, as one would do in an excavation. ‘Aerial archaeology’ encompasses a wide variety of survey and recording activities, from observing the landscape from above and actually taking the pictures to interpreting and mapping sites from the photographs taken. Aerial photography captured from a fixed-wing aircraft remains one of the most powerful tools to document and monitor the coastal heritage of Wales and Ireland. ‘Oblique’ aerial photographs taken at an angle to the ground give a more realistic landscape view of sites and monuments. ‘Vertical’ aerial photographs are taken looking straight down and look more like a map.
Carrying out surveys using a light aircraft means that hundreds of miles of coastline can be covered during periods of just 3-4 hours. The elevated perspective helps to clarify the layout of complex monuments, or show up features on a site which may be hidden from view or difficult to access at ground level.
The eroding Waterford coastline at Tramore during a CHERISH monitoring flight, September 2017.
The eroding Waterford coastline at Tramore during a CHERISH monitoring flight, September 2017.
Times of flights will vary with the seasons. Winter and spring is ideal for the photography of upstanding earthwork monuments, when low vegetation and low light allows all the details of a site to be picked out. Flat light or overcast conditions are preferred for recording monuments for Structure from Motion 3D modelling. Flights in summer droughts can reveal ‘cropmarks’ of buried or lost elements of an archaeological site, often with remarkable clarity
Surveying through the sea: the Sarn Padrig reef off the Gwynedd coast, Wales, seen from the air during summer reconnaissance. The reef is the site of numerous historic wrecks.
Surveying through the sea: the Sarn Padrig reef off the Gwynedd coast, Wales, seen from the air during summer reconnaissance. The reef is the site of numerous historic wrecks.
There is plenty to see when flying over the coastal, intertidal and maritime zone. As well as reconnaissance for, and discovery of, timber and stone built fish traps or wrecks and hulks, the search can be successfully extended for some distance offshore through shallow seas on very calm days when coastal waters may be remarkably clear. This is particularly important for recording wrecks which may show well against sandy sea beds.
Photos taken during CHERISH of eroding coastal archaeological sites will stand as a record of the condition of a monument long into the future, allowing comparison with historic aerial photographs taken from the 1940s onwards and charting future change. Powerful software also allows individual aerial photos taken from a drone or light aircraft in orbit around a site to be combined into a highly accurate 3D rotatable model (a process known as Structure from Motion).

Cropmarks

Illustration of how differential cropmarks appear as the rate of growth is impacted by the presence of archaeological features.
Illustration of how differential cropmarks appear as the rate of growth is impacted by the presence of archaeological features.
When archaeological features are buried they can affect the growth rate of the crops above them. The presence of features such as buried wall foundations or compacted floor surfaces produce a reduction in the soil depth and lower moisture levels than the surrounding land. Crops immediately above these features tend to have reduced growth rates in comparison to the plants above of no archaeological activity, producing “negative cropmarks”
In contrast areas where ditches, pits and other features have been dug into the subsoil become filled over time. This relative increase in soil depth and the potential to provide increased soil moisture enables the crops above to grow higher and ripen later than the plants around them, producing “positive cropmarks”. Both negative and positive cropmarks are more easily detected from the air and are usually visible during times of drought when crops are at maximum stress.
Cropmark of Early Bronze Age barrow at Goginan, west Wales.
Cropmark of Early Bronze Age barrow at Goginan, west Wales.

Soilmarks

Illustration of how human activity disturbs archaeology in the soil profile, leading to the appearance of soil marks.
Illustration of how human activity disturbs archaeology in the soil profile, leading to the appearance of soil marks.
Soilmarks Over time human activity has the potential to disturb the local soil profile. As humans dig pits or ditches into the soil or introduce new stone structures they can affect the viable appearance of the soil at the surface. Features such as pits and trenches over time become in-filled with material often different in nature than the surrounding undisturbed soil, including differences in texture (e.g. grain size) or colour. Buried structures such as walls and compacted stones can be brought to the surface by ploughing and are often brighter that the surrounding soil. Soilmarks are usually present after ploughing in the autumn or spring.

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Aerial Archaeology

Aerial Archaeology

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Collaboration & Training

Collaboration & Training

Collaboration & Training

The CHERISH Project has organised a number of professional workshops and are committed to organising more online and in-person workshops and events.

Professional Seminars

The CHERISH Project held a successful Professional Seminar on Thursday 17th May 2018 in Venue Cymru, Llandudno. The seminar was attended by nearly 80 delegates including members of the CHERISH Advisory Committee and Project Partners. A range of speakers presented position papers on UK climate change and coastal heritage policy from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland as well as talks about survey, research and public engagement. The free one day seminar composed of three sessions focussing on ‘Strategies for our Changing Coasts – Regional and National Perspectives’, ‘Meeting the challenge: CHERISH Project Update’ and ‘Engaging Coastal Communities’.
Participants of the 2019 CHERISH flying school receiving a briefing before carrying out their first photographic survey.
Participants of the 2019 CHERISH flying school receiving a briefing before carrying out their first photographic survey.

Day Schools

A number of day schools have been organised on both sides of the Irish Sea with an aerial school in Ireland in 2019 being a particular highlight. It was divided into a UAV day school and a flying day school. Both day schools began with classroom sessions in the morning, followed by a practical session in the afternoon. The UAV practical session took place at the Hill of Uisneach, County Westmeath. The practicalities of organising and planning a UAV survey were explained on site. The tutors included Robert Shaw, Discovery Programme, James Barry, Geological Survey of Ireland and Ronan O’Toole, Geological Survey of Ireland.
James Barry of the GSI briefs delegates of the CHERISH 2019 UAV Flying School before a survey.
James Barry of the GSI briefs delegates of the CHERISH 2019 UAV Flying School before a survey.
The flying school’s practical session continued at Weston Airport in Dublin. The students were divided into two groups of three and they flew in a four seater plane with the pilot and one of the instructors (Dr Toby Driver, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments Wales and Damien Grady, Historic England). The flight path allowed the students to take pictures of Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara and Bru Na Boinne World Heritage Site. In total 13 students took part in the aerial survey school including postgraduate students, commercial archaeologists and the state sector colleagues. The feedback from the school was very positive.
In 2018, Wales also saw it’s first public day school, hosted by the Royal Commission and Aberystwyth University ‘Facing the Storms’ saw presentations given from all CHERISH Partners alongside two guest speakers, Rebecca Evans from Pembrokeshire Coast national Park and Ken Murphy of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust.
Participant of the CHERISH flying school landing capturing an oblique image of Brú na Bóinne through the open window of the cockpit.
Participant of the CHERISH flying school landing capturing an oblique image of Brú na Bóinne through the open window of the cockpit.

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Conference & Seminars

Conference & Seminars

Save the date poster

CHERISH Conference 2021

The CHERISH Project online conference was held on 12 May 2021. The successful conference brought together a range of international speakers which provided a fantastic insight into how climate change and coastal heritage in being approached across the world. 

CHERISH conference 2021 flyer

Delegates who registered for the conference can still access all of the talks on CHERISH Conference Catch-up TV with their delegate login details by clicking on the button below.

For those that were unable to register for the event all recorded papers are available on the he CHERISH Youtube channel.

An end of CHERISH phase one conference is planned for 7 September 2022 at Dublin Castle. The conference will have an international focus with papers by leading specialists and practitioners, it will present the findings of the project and look at the way forward.

Conference Participation

The CHERISH Project stays actively engaged with the international climate change and cultural heritage community through presenting at a range of national and international conferences. We have organised scientific sessions at international conferences in Barcelona, Dublin and Newcastle and have presented to audiences in countries across Europe such as Italy, Poland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Orkney Islands and even Stockport!

More recently CHERISH project members have participated in number of online conferences. Toby Driver and Sandra Henry both presented papers at the Adapt Northern Heritage Conference in May 2020 (one of the first on-line conferences); Edward Pollard presented a paper at the Nautical Archaeology Society annual conference in 2020; Louise Barker and Kieran Craven gave one of the Keynote presentations at the Digital Past Conference 2021 and also present were James Barry, Daniel Hunt and Robert Shaw who presented an online workshop on the use of drones for archaeology.

Past CHERISH Conferences

An aerial archaeology seminar organised by the CHERISH project took place in June 2019. The seminar entitled Air and Earth 2: Developments in Aerial Archaeology was a free full day conference. The seminar was divided into four sessions and the first session Recent Aerial Discoveries included papers from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. The other sessions each featured three papers on the topics Aerial Photographic Archives, Lidar and other remote sensing methods and Education and community involvement.

CHERISH Senior Geo-surveyor presenting at the AIr & Earth 2 Conference in 2019.
CHERISH Senior Geo-surveyor presenting at the AIr & Earth 2 Conference in 2019.

In May 2018 the CHERISH Project held a successful Professional Seminar on in Venue Cymru, Llandudno. The seminar was attended by nearly 80 delegates including members of the CHERISH Advisory Committee and Project Partners. A range of speakers presented position papers on UK climate change and coastal heritage policy from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland as well as talks about survey, research and public engagement. The free one day seminar comprised three sessions focussing on ‘Strategies for our Changing Coasts – Regional and National Perspectives’, ‘Meeting the challenge: CHERISH Project Update’ and ‘Engaging Coastal Communities’.

Audience members at the CHERISH Professional Seminar: Llandudno 2018.
Audience members at the CHERISH Professional Seminar: Llandudno 2018.

The CHERISH Project has also organised several conference sessions in large international conferences including the European Archaeology Association (EAA) in Bern (2019) and Barcelona (2018).

Speakers who contributed to the CHERISH Session at the European Archaeology Association (EAA) 2018 Conference in Barcelona.
Speakers who contributed to the CHERISH Session at the European Archaeology Association (EAA) 2018 Conference in Barcelona.
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