Message In A Bottle, Poor Student V Aspiring Maritime Archaeologist

By Louise Lamming  

Having always suffered from a slightly loose screw, I have been at a distinct advantage in beginning my career as an underwater archaeologist.  Despite my limited experience, it is abundantly clear to me that an obsession with all things maritime and archaeological is a necessity.  At an early stage in my degree course (BA Classical Archaeology) I decided to combine my passion for the sea and for diving with my love of archaeology, starting with the inclusion of an underwater element in all my written work.  As I became more fanatical I read widely on the subject and started combing the internet for practical experience opportunities.  In this way I was introduced to ADMAT.   

So now I wait with hungry anticipation for my first underwater archaeological ‘dig’.  Unfortunately my chosen career path comes at a price; fortunately this is where my obsession comes in.  I have always known that a ‘normal’ career was not for me and I could see that, should travel opportunities arise in pursuit of an ‘abnormal’ one, I would require personal funds.  I started a savings account in my first year of university and hoarded any spare change I could make through working for an events company; there are hundreds of them and they suit the student lifestyle in their flexibility and reasonable pay.  This is tremendously useful but it is not by any means my sole resource: taking into consideration my position as a poor student (which has magnificent potential for exploitation), I came up with a few other ideas.

Travel grants are available if you look in the right places; my university provides four, of which two were applicable to me and from which I hope to gain between £500 and £1000.  I try to join as many relevant archaeological societies as possible – if nothing else it keeps me up-to-date with any conferences, lectures or open days I might be able to attend either as a society member or one of the general public.  It is worth asking as many such organisations as possible about the availability of grants as they may be able to point you in the right direction if they cannot help you themselves.  As far as equipment is concerned, manufacturers may send you freebies if you plead your case in writing and point out that this is the beginning of a long diving career for which you will be purchasing more expensive equipment in future.  Even if you just get a free mask it’s worth it.

I have found that the key to getting anywhere in this field is polite pestering.  As a result of this I am building my diving experience with a BSAC instructor who I met in Cornwall last summer, who is giving me the odd bit of tuition on our dives.  I have also been in contact with Simon Spooner since November and my perseverance seems to be paying off, as I am sitting here writing this article.  Above all, stay ahead.  Read as much as possible.  Keep in mind that in order to gain experience and knowledge one must develop a real ‘Maritime Mania’.  I find it tremendously rewarding; as a newcomer to the field there is everything to be gained.

Louise Lamming