Tag Archives: underwater archaeology

My Highland Adventure: Diving Loch Achilty Crannog and HMS Natal

by Duncan Ross

During lockdown, apart from eating too many pancakes, NASAC (Nautical Archaeology Society affiliated diving club) member Duncan Ross set himself a grand future task of visiting different kinds of underwater archaeological sites around Britain. This summer he managed to add a couple of unique Scottish sites to his gradually-expanding list.

After around two years of communication, in August 2022 I was invited to help out on a crannog investigation in the fairly anonymous Loch Achilty, just a little north of Inverness city. Assisting North of Scotland Archaeology Society (NOSAS) member Richard Guest and his intrepid team, I spent two days at a most-tranquil setting scuba diving, investigating, recording and taking photos and film of a site that could be anything from a couple of hundred years to a couple of thousand years old. 

Richard Guest explores mysterious timber and rocks around the Loch Achilty crannog: Image: Duncan Ross

Crannogs are a fairly unchartered area in the field of archaeology, and most questions about their creation and the purpose of their locations within lochs remain unanswered and open to speculation. All that usually remains is an artificial island of stones piled on top of one another – artefacts and human traces are frustratingly rare, as are diagnostic patterns that could lead to a method of classification. The crannog centre at Loch Tay focuses on the iron age roundhouse model that was discovered there, but little proof exists that others were constructed and utilised in the same way. The depth of the Loch Achilty crannog, previously unrecorded, is an ultra-accessible 2.5 metres. Needless to say, dive times were extremely long for Richard and myself.

Richard Guest and Duncan Ross prepare to place garden canes around the crannog to aid with measurements. Image: Elizabeth Blackburn
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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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