Although I’ve only read a sampling of books featuring Clive Cussler’s hero Dirk Pitt and seen the movies, I’ve always enjoyed the fanciful adventures, whether in the water, on land or in the air.
At a recent Florida Romance Writers’ meeting, I sat slack-jawed as a fellow member began a presentation entitled “Archaeology for Writers”. I couldn’t believe it. Standing before the group was a female Dirk Pitt! **
A nautical archaeologist, Lindsey Hall Thomas (writing as Linsey Hall) opened with the history of archaeology [if you’re writing historicals, during the 16-19th centuries antiquarians were wealthy Europeans collecting objects for display]. Ms. Thomas discussed Harriet Boyd Hawkes, who was the first woman to direct a major field project in Greece. Want to learn more about women archaeologists? Check out www.trowelblazers.com
Lindsey covered the basics and the process of an underwater ‘dig’: picking and finding a site, creating the team, securing funding, and obtaining the permits and equipment. Loads of planning takes place before that first dive. Then there’s the recording and analyzing. For every hour on site, there’s nine to ten hours of processing. Why do archaeologists remove only certain artifacts? Because once removed, the artifact becomes the archaeologist’s responsibility for maintaining it: for life.
How crazy can underwater archaeology get? Sharks, black water and bombs, oh my! Get the sensation someone is watching you? Thieves will often watch the site in order to steal. Recall the scene in Harry Potter’s Deadly Hallows I where ice freezes and traps Harry in the water? It happens when the site is in a cold water lake.
As I listened to the fascinating accounts, I thought of the characteristics a female Dirk Pitt would have: resourceful, observant, analytical, detail-oriented and patient. Most of all, she would have to be calm under crisis.
Lindsey mentioned one diver who was ascending from a deep water dive and was at a depressurization stop when all turned dark for a few moments. When the darkness passed he found a shark had chomped on him from above, taking his head and upper body into its jaws. Not liking the air tank, the shark had released him. However, although severely injured and bleeding, the diver had had the presence of mind to complete his waiting time before continuing his ascent. Why?
The archaeologists invariably work in remote sites where there isn’t a hospital nearby with a decompression chamber. Nor do most projects have a portable decompression chamber available as they’re too expensive. If the diver had broken for the surface, he probably would have died from the too rapid change of pressure.
When asked if she had ever seen something that couldn’t be explained, Ms. Hall smiled and told us about a perfectly round object about three miles wide and two hundred feet deep in the Baltic Sea off of Norway that fascinates her.
Intrigued like I am and want more information? Check out the Nautical Archaeology Society. http://www.nauticalarchaeologysociety.org
** These notes are my own recollection/interpretation of the presentation and any errors are mine.**
Meanwhile, what are your favorite books or movies centered on archaeology/archaeologists?
Justice At All Costs