Tag Archives: nautical archaeology

The NOSAS Crannogs Project

by Richard Guest

I have long been fascinated by crannogs. These are articial island dwellings such as the one in Loch Achilty, pictured above (see Canmore).  I remember back in the 80’s tiptoeing across a partly submerged causeway to visit one in a Shetland lochan.  Then, later, visiting the reconstruction in Loch Tay and seeing a TV programme about it.  Later still, whilst on a Nautical Archaeology Society training course I met one of the divers who had been on the Loch Tay project and heard first hand what it was like to make such amazing discoveries.

About 10 years ago, my late wife Jonie and I decided to try and walk out to the Redcastle crannog in the Beauly Firth (see Canmore).  About twenty squelchy steps was enough to convince us that this was a BAD IDEA and we retreated to solid land.  And oh! The smell!  So the next expedition was by boat at high tide and we passed over Phopachy crannog (see Canmore), which we could see on the sounder but could make nothing out through the water.  Another trip at a lower state of tide, we could see the crannog but the water around it was too shallow to approach in the boat.  We didn’t try again.

What we did do was to dive around another crannog, the one in Loch Brora (see Canmore).  The water was so peaty we saw literally nothing.  We knew we had reached the bottom when we felt it beneath us.  I put my hand in front of my mask but couldn’t see it, even with a powerful torch.  I think I could feel some square timber but it might have been a modern fence post caught in weed.

More recently I became aware, through both diving and archaeology sources, of discoveries of Neolithic pottery found underwater around crannogs in the western isles (see Current Archaeology article).  This exploded the received wisdom that crannogs were of iron age to post medieval date.  Then in 2021 NOSAS were lucky enough to have a “Zoom” lecture about crannogs, by Michael Stratigos from the University of York, which is available on You Tube (below). This is when the idea for a NOSAS crannogs project was born.

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Elusive Wartime Remains in Loch Ewe

Jonie and Richard Guest search for underwater remains from the last war – by Richard Guest (NOSAS).

Capture (1)We had it on good authority – a record of an eye witness – that at the end of the last war the 6” artillery which had been positioned at Rubha nan Sasan on the west side of the entrance to Loch Ewe was dumped over the cliffs.  We had also variously heard that it had been seen previously by divers but also that it may have been salvaged.  We decided to look for ourselves.

We launched our Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) from the community slip at Inverasdale and headed out to the mouth of the Loch in good weather and calm sea.  The gun emplacements are easy to see on shore and were visible from the boat so there was no problem in deciding where to dive.

The first dive was made from a point just North of the northern gun emplacement, with the intention of working south past it.  Immediately on descending it was obvious that there was a serious obstacle to the search – dense kelp!  The seabed was not visible from above the kelp and could only be seen by putting your head into the seaweed, which allowed you to see about one square metre at a time.  Even vertical surfaces were kelp-covered so even if the guns stood proud of the seabed they would themselves be covered in kelp.  You could only see whether the kelp was attached to archaeology or bedrock from within touching distance.

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The orange floating blob marks where Richard is underwater.

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