A month with Archangel Raphael is not that much, considering some other expeditions lasted even longer than this. But this past season, late September-early October, weather conditions were far from perfect, the sea was stormy and the dives kept being postponed. In truth, our team spent only a couple weeks onsite. Working under time constraints required unparalleled efficiency, showcased by our divers and underwater archaeologists.
So what’s different about this year’s excavations? Heavy diving gear was used for the first time. Its air supply hose allows to spend more time underwater, and heavy shoes, weights, and helmet allow the diver to steady themselves and improve their cleaning efficiency. The heavy diver was sent to work on the stern to remove the silt from the ship. The destroyed part of the hull, or, more precisely, its dimensions, could help us identify the type of the vessel. Despite the fact that each year we learn more and more about Archangel Raphael and its crew, we can only guess what it was really like. Over the 300 years that it has been sitting on the seabed of the Baltic Sea, the amount of silt covering it grew exponentially, so much so that we will have to continue washing off the stern next year.
Divers with lightweight gear, in our case our well-known research divers and underwater archaeologists, continued to work on the bow of the ship. It too has layers of silt waiting to be removed, however, it is more of a spot-by-spot process, while most of the time is spent on artifact recovery. Some journalists found it intriguing and proceeded to attend some of the events. For example, they observed the recovery of a large barrel with grain. During the conservation process, it became apparent that the grain in question is rye. This season, we recovered fragments of rigging and dishes from the galley, food, including eel and root vegetables, mallet, as well as another felt hat. All of this was sent to the URC RGS conservation workshop for Roman Prokhorov, an underwater archaeologist and conservator-restorer will work his magic on the future exhibits of the Contraband. Three Centuries Underwater collection.