Monday, October 31, 2005


Divers get cultural signposts


By Cato Guhnfeldt
October 27, 2005

A cultural landmark sign is ready for placement under the waves.

Norway's Directorate for Cultural Heritage has begun a unique program of setting up signs to highlight historical landmarks - underwater.

About 30 shipwrecks in southern Norway will get the familiar preservation sign from the directorate, to help divers appreciate - and respect - some of the country's less obvious attractions.

On Thursday the first sign, bearing the familiar pretzel-shaped landmark logo, will go up near a shipwreck in Vest-Agder County in southern Norway. The signs are built of acid-resistant steel and titanium to resist saltwater and other sea problems.

Signs will be placed at depths of 10-30 meters (33-98 feet), and will point out wrecks and cargo that are particularly vulnerable to plundering.

"We are in principle very restrictive about revealing the position of the wrecks that are now getting signs, in order to avoid attracting unauthorized divers. But if they find such wrecks, they will now get a clear message to leave the preserved site alone," said maritime archeologist Pål Nymoen from the Norwegian Maritime Museum.

The signs will be placed in order to discourage
vandalism and plundering.
PHOTO: Norsk Sjøfartsmuseum.

Per Vangsøy, manager of the Norwegian Diver Association, said the project sounded exciting.

"We greatly support the protection of our undersea cultural heritage. But people must be allowed to enjoy the sight of a shipwreck. So we are opposed to diving bans in certain areas. We divers are an observer resource, so it is important that the signing takes place in cooperation with we who travel underwater," Vangsøy said.

Authorities are hoping for cooperation with local divers. They are also asked to help monitor the state of the signs, which are mounted with a gauge at the bottom to measure the amount of sedimentation or erosion.

The current signing project is considered a type of forerunner.

"Eventually we hope to achieve national coverage of our most important shipwrecks. Now at the first stage we will gather experience and feedback from divers," Nymoen said.


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