A three-day workshop on Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) - Database of Shipwrecks and Underwater Survey, a joint initiative of the Department for Continental Shelf, Maritime Zones Administration and Exploration (CSMZAE) and the Stanford University, aiming to enhance the scientific and technical expertise of relevant stakeholders to document and manage UCH, kicked off, yesterday, at the seat of the Department for CSMZAE in Belmont House, Port-Louis.
This workshop has been organised within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department for CSMZAE and the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford University). It has as objectives to showcase the database of shipwrecks in Mauritius which has been developed by Stanford University in collaboration with the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS) and; understand best practices in carrying out underwater surveys of UCH.
The workshop will include hands-on training on 24 November 2021 and underwater survey training (diving operations) on 25 and 26 November 2021 on measurement techniques (trilateration), setting markers for geographical positions and, photogrammetry survey.
This training will be facilitated by experts in the field from Stanford University and the MMCS who are in parallel, members of the Joint Working Group set up under the framework of the MoU between the Department for CSMZAE and Stanford University.
They are: the Professor at Stanford University, Dr. Krish Seetah, who is also an environmental archaeologist with a particular focus on the period of European expansion; the Maritime Archeologist and current PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the Stanford University, Ms Stefania Manfio; and the Underwater Archeologist at the MMCS and professional diver with vast experience on shipwrecks in the maritime zones of Mauritius, Mr Yann von Arnim, who has equally managed several underwater archaeological surveys of shipwrecks including the slave ship "Le Coureur" and the British frigate 'Sirius '. He has also published a number of articles regarding shipwrecks around Mauritius and is currently working on a shipwreck database.
The Mauritius Underwater Cultural Heritage Project
The "Mauritius Underwater Cultural Heritage Project" was initiated by the Department for CSMZAE in response to the need for identification, preservation, protection and awareness of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) in the maritime zones of the Republic of Mauritius.
The project has as main objectives namely: to provide capacity building in UCH; to identify and document the marine archaeological resources in the maritime zones of Mauritius on a Geographical Information System (GIS) platform; to ensure the integrity of the UCH identified through management plans; to investigate means to develop a sustainable UCH tourism and; to create awareness on marine archaeological resources.
An introductory workshop was held in 2019 to raise awareness on the importance of UCH and best international practices in the field of UCH including survey techniques. The Department believes that while geophysical surveys provide a general picture of wreck sites, underwater surveys, on the other hand, have the objective to assess the conservation status of the wreck and to produce an accurate mapping of the site, including descriptions and measurements.