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History and the Sea: Interview with Sarah Ward, Marine Archaeologist

Interview performed by Alex Calvo

The sea is a vital venue for trade and national security, and also holds the key to understanding much of our past. From the dispute over the South China Sea, to the protection of sea graves such as HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, maritime archaeology matters. Sarah Ward, a maritime archaeologist, diver, and outreach specialist, who works for ArchaeoMar Australasia (a cultural heritage practice based in Sydney Australia) and has her own blog, has kindly agreed to tell CIMSEC a bit more about her work.

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CIMSEC: When did you decide to become a maritime archaeologist and why?

Ward: As a child I had a fascination with the sea. I grew up on my parent’s boat, diving and exploring the shipwrecks of Tangalooma Island (near Brisbane, Australia). I was obsessed with Jacques Cousteau and when not splashing about in the water, would spend hours poring over his books and films. Then having worked in finance for a number of years, and with an MBA under my belt, I decided that life was too short and it was time that I did what I loved. A water baby with a passion for the past, I eventually abandoned my desk job, took the plunge and proved that it is possible to turn your passion into a challenging and rewarding career.

CIMSEC: What kind of training is needed for this job? What are the main skills required?

Ward: To become a maritime archaeologist, you would generally need to complete an undergraduate degree in archaeology, followed by a masters degree in maritime archaeology. You might also like to complete studies in the time period or geographic region you are interested in e.g. Roman History or Asian studies, and, if you wish to teach at tertiary level, a relevant PhD. If you wish to work underwater (which not all maritime archaeologists do), this will need to be topped off with commercial diving certification (e.g. from the HSE in the UK or ADAS in Australia).

With regard to the core skills of a maritime archaeologist, these fall into three main areas: intellectual, practical, and administrative.

  1. Intellectual skills include (but aren’t limited to):
    • an understanding of the history, languages, and culture of the period and area/site in which you work;
    • an understanding of the theory and concepts of archaeological practice, such as sequence, relation, association, chronology, observation, synthesis, interrogation, and interpretation;
    • a sound understanding of the ethical considerations and applications and an ability to understand and respond to the context in which archaeological work is conducted.
  2. Practical or technical skills include:
    • diving (for those working under water);
    • diving supervision (for those leading work under water);
    • an understanding of geophysical and other prospection methods;
    • data collection and retrieval, such as survey, recording, excavation, and pre-excavation and post-excavation data analysis;
    • historical, archival, and topic-based research;
    • first aid for finds and a basic understanding of preliminary conservation;
    • an understanding of a broader scientific methods.
  3. Administrative/managerial skills are standard across any business or project management, including:
    • remote area logistics (field & diving);
    • financial and information management.

If you would like more details on the skills required, I led a study on benchmarking competency in maritime archaeology for the NAS a number of years ago; the study is online here.

CIMSEC: How does maritime archaeology differ from the more traditional, land-based variety?

Ward: The intellectual requirements are the same, however there are two key differences: the theme of study (human relationship with the sea); and the environment in which we work (intertidal zone or underwater). The environment brings its own challenges as the the tools, techniques, equipment and training required when working underwater, for example, can vary substantially to that employed on land.

CIMSEC: Which project are you currently working on? Could you tell us a bit about it?

Ward: My current research work is focused on the maritime archaeology of China, the maritime silk route and the early Ming Navy, notably the voyages of Zheng He and the resulting connections with Africa. I’m currently investigating evidence suggesting that one of the Zheng He fleet wrecked on the East African coast. This is significant as it could be the first vessel relating to the voyages that has been found. If so, it would give us an incredible insight into the expansionist Ming maritime policy and today’s parallels.

Nanhai1 excavation.
Nanhai1 excavation. Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong and the Peoples Republic of China.

CIMSEC: What is your favorite past project and why?

Ward: Asking me to chose a favourite project would be like asking a mother to chose her favourite child! That said I have been fortunate enough to work on some incredible projects, with some incredible people. Present research excluded, here are a few of my favourites:

  • Excavation of the a settlement on Gask Ridge, Scotland’s Roman Frontier, with Drs Brigitta Hoffman and David Woolliscroft of the Roman Gask Project – the information gained from the dig changed our understanding of the history of Roman Scotland;
  • Excavation of King Henry VIII’s Tudor flagship the Mary Rose, when the sternpost and anchor was lifted;
  • remote sensing survey of the Late Bronze Age, early Iron Age settlement at High Past Cave, on the Isle of Skye;
  • Excavation of Kizilburun Roman Column Wreck on the Aegean Coast of Turkey with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology; and
  • Excavation of the Scottish settlement of the Isthmus of Panama, the failure of which lead to the Union of the Crown in 1707.

CIMSEC: The dispute over the South China Sea has seen some claimants use archaeological evidence to support their claims. Is there a danger of the discipline being politicized? Could this result in restrictions on archaeological work?

Ward: The South China Sea dispute is an interesting situation. China claims sovereignty over almost 90% of the South China Sea, and has done since ancient times. To an extent, this claim is made on the basis that way back in China’s first dynasty, the Xia (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC), China was apparently the first state to discover, name, explore, and exploit the contested Spratly (Nansha) and Paracel (Xisha) Islands. This claim is based more on historical, rather than legal grounds, and China is looking to the past to create a future – to the Han ceramics found on Taiping Island, Nanhai 1 off Hainan 20 nm off Dongping, the 200 submerged prehistoric sites identified between the Spratly and Paracel Islands, and to early maps and documents which support historic Chinese ownership.

Coins from Nanhai 1.
Coins from Nanhai 1. Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong and the Peoples Republic of China.

For China, this is a nation-building exercise. It’s also not the first time archaeology has been put to overt political use. In 1914, Leonard Woolley and Thomas (TE) Lawrence provided archaeological camouflage for a British military survey of the Turkish-controlled Sinai Peninsula. During World War I, Sylvanus Morley used his investigations of Mayan sites in the Yucatán as a cover to negotiate with rebel Mayan leaders for their support of U.S. interests.

Archaeology often reveals a contested space, a battleground for struggles over economic gain, heritage, and identity, and its practice often carries with it profound political implication. In China’s case, it can and has resulted in restrictions on archaeological work, such as when a French team working on a Chinese shipwreck off the Philippine coast was turned back by the Chinese on the basis of their sovereign claims.

CIMSEC: On the other hand, could international cooperation in maritime archaeology be part of confidence-building measures in disputed sea areas?

Ward: Absolutely. Confidence is the result of a dynamic process, based on past experiences, present perceptions, and future expectations, and affected by a multitude of elements. As confidence is especially sensitive to the behaviour of States, cooperation in maritime archaeology, which is a tenant of the UNESCO 2001 Convention, would be an excellent confidence-building measure.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, and Malaysia have a mutual, shared maritime heritage and our appreciation of the past determines how we shape our future. A shared heritage not only reminds us of our collective identity and cultural diversity, it also nurtures social belonging, promotes economies amongst local communities, and it deepens mutual understanding of each other’s values, histories, and traditions.

CIMSEC: Do you use unmanned submarines in your work? Do they offer the potential to radically transform our understanding of the maritime past?

Ward: Yes, quite often. In the past, for example, I’ve worked with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney to carry out a high-resolution shipwreck survey in deep water using Sirius, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The submersible is equipped with a full suite of oceanographic instruments, including a high-resolution stereo camera pair and strobes, a multibeam sonar, depth and conductivity/temperature sensors, Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) including a compass with integrated roll and pitch sensors, Ultra Short Baseline Acoustic Positioning System (USBL), and forward looking obstacle avoidance sonar. The result is effectively a 3D map of the shipwreck site to millimetric accuracy.

Nanhai-Shipwreck.
Nanhai-Shipwreck. Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong and the Peoples Republic of China.

This technology allows us to locate, identify and survey submerged sites with greater accuracy than ever before, in smaller timeframes, in deep water and other environments not previously accessible to divers. The result is high quality, often real time data that can be used for interpretation, education, dissemination, and site monitoring in new and exciting ways.

CIMSEC: What is the best approach to protect sea graves? How to combine our thirst for knowledge about our past with the necessary respect for those who fell at sea?

Ward.- War graves at sea is a very sensitive issue, and one on which an international consensus has not been reached – in spite of the Geneva Conventions, their additional protocols, and international humanitarian law. The treatment of human remains in maritime museums was discussed at the ICMM in Hong Kong recently and there were as many opinions on what is appropriate, as there were people in the room.

The same diversity of opinion applies to war graves at sea. In the UK for example, the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 protects human remains associated with the remains of military aircraft and vessels that have crashed, sunk or been stranded, from unauthorised interference. Australia on the other hand, has no such legislation.

Personally, I believe that the best approach is protection via the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001. Underwater cultural heritage means all traces of human existence (including human remains) having a cultural, historical or archaeological character, which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years.

The Convention sets out basic principles for the protection of underwater cultural heritage:

  • an obligation to preserve underwater cultural heritage;
  • in situ preservation as first option (note first, not best option; this allows for recovery in certain situations);
  • no commercial exploitation;
  • training and information sharing.

It also provides a detailed State cooperation system; widely recognized practical rules for the treatment and research of underwater cultural heritage; and for public access to sites up to the point where it becomes detrimental to the site.

With regard to war graves, first and foremost, the personal dignity of the deceased must be safeguarded, as must the relatives’ right to know the fate of their next of kin. Mechanisms must also be established for relatives to access the burial place and for their interest in recovering the dead to be registered.

Lifting items from Nanhai 1.
Lifting items from Nanhai 1. Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong and the Peoples Republic of China.

CIMSEC: You have recently attended the International Congress of Maritime Museums (ICMM) in Hong Kong, could you tell us about the work of this organization? What were the highlights of the congress?

Ward.- ICMM was an absolutely fantastic event an one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

To give you some background, ICMM is a biennial congress attended by maritime archaeologists, maritime museum directors, and related maritime professionals from around the world. The aim of the congress is for delegates to network, share expertise and resources, and to learn about the international best practices in the capacity of maritime museum operations and management, and it certainly achieved that.

This was both the first ICMM in Asia and quite possibly the best conference I have ever attended. Our friends at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum really know how to put on a good show!

The two keynotes − Lincoln Paine, author of the acclaimed Sea and Civilization, and Fred Kenny, Director External and Legal Affairs at the IMO − were excellent. As were the presentations by my old friends and mentors, Fred Hocker, Director of Research at the Vasa Museum, and Christopher Dobbs, Head of Maritime Archaeology and Interpretation at the Mary Rose Museum. The excursions to The Peak, Tai O, Jao Tsung-I Academy, Hong Kong Museum of History, and Macau Maritime Museum were all enlightening, but for me the real treat was meeting new friends from China, and to hear about the incredible work being undertaken at both the China Maritime Museum and visiting the Nanhai 1 Song Dynasty shipwreck at the Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guandgong. Fascinating!

Sarah Ward is a maritime archaeologist, diver, and outreach specialist. She works for ArchaeoMar Australasia (a cultural heritage practice based in Sydney Australia) and is a regular blogger and tweeter.

Alex Calvo is a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan) focusing on security and defence policy, international law, and military history in the Indian-Pacific Ocean. Region. A member of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) and Taiwan’s South China Sea Think-Tank, he is currently writing a book about Asia’s role and contribution to the Allied victory in the Great War. He tweets @Alex__Calvo and his work can be found here..

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October Member Round-Up Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of the October 2015 Member Round-Up, covering the second two weeks of the month. Over the past two weeks the U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea have dominated the attention of the maritime security community. Although the incident was a significant development in the region, CIMSEC members have focused on several other international maritime issues in addition to the FONOPS. These issues include Russian operations in the Middle East, Canada’s blue-water naval capabilities, strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific and features of the U.S. Navy’s procurement strategy requirements.

Beginning the Round-Up at The National Interest, Scott Cheney-Peters discusses the necessity of U.S. FONOPS directed at China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. Mr. Cheney-Peters explains that the U.S. position was twofold; it was critical to uphold commonsense interpretation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea while also reassuring commitment to regional allies concerned with China’s growing military capabilities. Mr. Cheney-Peters also explains the FONOPS repercussions and implications in an article at Sputnik.

Bryan Clark is interviewed at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments concerning the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation maneuvers and the potential consequences of such operations. He explains the possibility that these U.S. operations may initiate FONOPS response equivalents off the U.S. West Coast from PLA-N vessels. However, Mr. Clark also notes that inaction would abandon sovereignty disputes over the artificial islands ceding the region to the Chinese, a circumstance at odds with regional U.S. interests.

Fiery-Cross-Reef-China-base-SCS-150311_fieryBase_2detail-1024x863-1024x863
China’s new airstrip built over Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea (CSIS image)

Mira Rapp-Hooper, at Lawfare, explains the U.S. FONOPS in the South China Sea through an international law context. The objective of her article is to outline the key legal and factual features of freedom of navigation while accurately describing the relationship between the military operation itself and maritime law. Also following a legal perspective, Alex Calvo for The Asia-Pacific Journal provides a comprehensive analysis on the ongoing legal dispute in the South China Sea. Mr. Calvo explains that the arbitration case currently being held in the Netherlands will contribute to the future dynamic of the entire South China Sea region and the ability for international law to resolve territorial conflicts peacefully and without recourse to military options.

Concluding the Round-Up’s discussion on the South China Sea FONOPS, James Goldrick at The Interpreter discusses the political and strategic need for Australia to assert freedom of operation throughout China’s artificial island network and its corresponding contested waters. Mr. Goldrick maintains that Australia should dispatch a naval force to operate in the vicinity of the Chinese artificial islands to demonstrate commitment to upholding international law and support for regional allied interests.

Darshana Baruah, at Offiziere, discusses the developing relationship in the Indo-Pacific between India and Australia. The article explains that the recent completion of the first bilateral naval exercises between the two countries indicates an aim to strengthen interoperability between their respective navies for the purpose of increased maritime security. Further to this, Ms. Baruah identifies the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and the rise of China as having contributed to geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, which has resulted in strategic opportunities for Indo-Pacific actors to collaborate in bilateral or multilateral arrangements.

Bryan Clark, before the House Armed Services Seapower and Power Projection Forces Subcommittee, argued that the U.S. Navy must increase development of advanced undersea systems to sustain American dominance in undersea operations. Mr. Clark explains that U.S. undersea warfare capabilities face the threat of being effectively challenged as a result of new detection technologies and quieter submarine fleets being developed by U.S. competitors.

To conclude Part Two of the October Member Round-Up, Ken Hansen for The Conference of Defense Associations Institute discusses the loss of Canada’s two primary logistical ships and the implications the loss will have on the Navy’s operations. Mr. Hansen explains that the decommissioning of the HMCS Preserver and the major fire onboard the HMCS Protecteur has entirely eliminated the Navy’s ability to conduct global force projection operations due to a lack of at-sea replenishment. Mr. Hansen explains that the Canadian Navy has acquired Spanish and Chilean logistical ships for temporary use for blue-water training operations and to maintain task group readiness throughout the logistical ship replacement process.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the second part of October:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honours Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies and defence policy and management.

Australia World’s Largest LNG exporter by 2018: Understanding Maritime Security Challenges

By Mohid Iftikhar

 According to the Oxford Institute for Energy studies by 2018; Australia would become world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter (LNG). It is of cardinal importance to understand Australia’s global significance both towards strategic direction and growth through its LNG exports. In an article by the Submarine Institute of Australia; “Future Long Range Submarine Force Vital…” Australian LNG trade will climb more than $60 billion by 2020. Hence, in connection it is essential to analyze maritime security dimensions for Australia’s LNG exports. According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;  Japan has been the largest export destination for Australia’s LNG over the last decade. In 2013, Japan was the destination for 92.4 per cent of Australia’s LNG exports by value, and 80.7 per cent by volume. Other major markets include China (4.2 per cent by value), the Republic of Korea (3.0 per cent) and Taiwan (0.4 per cent).”

The Asia-Pacific region holds great value to the Australian LNG, as it is a market with long term demands. In context of trade, global LNG industry faces competition with Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the U.S, but Australia has marked its position. Examined by Oxford Institute for Energy studies in their paper “The Future of Australian LNG Exports….” Australia aims at establishing its international position in the energy market and particularly towards the Asia-Pacific. Geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific has progressed, multidimensional forces promoting global and regional development including security ambitions. In relation, the Chinese initiative of the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route aim to connect Africa, Europe and Asia, and poses numerous questions in the field international relations and development. Chinese enterprise predicts greater demand of LNG in the region, according to the Asia Times there will be over 900 projects involving 60 countries in the New Silk Road Economic Corridor. Simultaneously, the existing conflicts in the South China and East China Seas are a potential source of maritime security predicament; asking if conflict is evitable amongst states?

Internationally, LNG will also help Australia’s goal to establish itself as a more active participant in the Asia-Pacific region, as outlined in the government’s 2012 white paper “Australia in the Asian Century.” Perhaps, Australia does have a concrete direction of international growth through LNG exports, at the same time maritime security remains equally essential. On the same course, the Australian Defense white paper from May 2009, “Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific century: Force 2030”, does signify importance of maritime security and a self-dependent defense strategy in the oceans.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker operated by Energy Advance Co., a unit of Tokyo Gas Co., is moored at the company's Sodegaura plant in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, March 22, 2012. Japan's imports of LNG rose to a record last fiscal year as utilities turned to fossil fuels after the Fukushima nuclear disaster led to the shutdown of almost all the nation's atomic reactors. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker operated by Energy Advance Co., a unit of Tokyo Gas Co., is moored at the company’s Sodegaura plant in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Maritime security challenges are interlinked through adverse economic breakdown for LNG exports that fall under threats of terrorism and piracy. Possibly, terrorism remains a vital concern as LNG cargo can be targeted as floating bombs,  the statement is supported as quoted in the book “Organizational and psychological aspects of terrorism”  by the Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, “There is a concern amongst many maritime terrorist experts that a terrorist group could use a hijacked LNG tanker as a floating bomb. The amount of LNG held in a large tanker could generate an explosion of a similar size to a small nuclear bomb.” . Religious radicalization in the Middle East and terrorism in South Asia and Southeast Asia are both critical towards safety of Australian LNG shipments to their destinations. While transnational concerns have a firm relationship between maritime commerce and security, concurrently the 21st century has evolved geo-political concerns. The increasing power projections and geo-strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific are strongly connected to international maritime security. The wider hypothesis can be “Effect of Geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific towards Maritime Security.” The relationship between geopolitical dynamics and transnational crimes in the seas has shaped a new picture; while an important question is; would the latter capitalize on the stance? 

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U.S ambitions in the Indian and Pacific Ocean are towards deploying 60% of its naval fleet by 2020. Perhaps, sea lines of communication for Australian exports are not only critical towards intra and interregional trade, but geopolitics post 2020 will evolve the architecture of maritime security.  It is equally important to sustain international harmony in the maritime sphere of Asia-Pacific, but are China, USA and other rising powers willing to extend collaboration and coalitions for maritime security? Many experts and scholars from war studies and international relations agree towards the minimum possibility towards a military conflict in the Asia-Pacific, but they don’t completely rule out the fact. Power projections in the seas of Asia-Pacific remain a source of anxiety, and the deployment of submarines and destroyers in strategic positions produces a negative image.

Transnational criminals today have accelerated in their modus operandi by advancing in strategic intelligence through contemporary technologies. The cyber domain remains sophisticated, but has its cons that can be favorable to criminals for locating LNG shipments through GPS tracking and etc. On the same note, the Straits of Malacca remain the central route for Australian LNG shipments to pass towards East Asia; the year 2014 had accounted for 75% of the world’s piracy attacks in the area. Further, in an article from BloombergView “Islamic State Is Rapidly Expanding in Southeast Asia” quoted as Southeast Asia is a key recruitment center for ISIS, the nexus between terrorism in Southeast Asia and Jihadi extremism from the Middle East evolves a broader challenge in the maritime route for Australian LNG shipments.

It is a question of international economic security towards safety of Australian LNG shipments, in two parts. First preventing an economic breakdown for Australia and second the dependence of importer states for their national operations and productivity. International development requires a sustainable mechanism of integration between states, and the Asia-Pacific region is evolving complex dynamics that inculcate development, geopolitical, race, and transnational challenges. Demand of LNG in the Asia-Pacific will extensively grow in forthcoming years; Australia will be a significant contributor towards the same. But geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific is defining competition in facets of arms race, strength and modern imperialism. Transnational crimes such as terrorism, radicalization and piracy are a threat to Australian LNG shipments capitalizing on geopolitical objectives in a camouflaged manner. Simply, while there is a debate going on amongst great and rising powers of who is right in the Asia-Pacific, transnational criminals are emerging through the sideways planning catastrophic events. 

The Asia-Pacific region in the maritime domain requires consensus building from global and rising powers. A direction towards international development, ownership of vital ocean resources and disputes on maritime boundaries are aspects that ignite geopolitical race. First the international framework under the United Nations convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS) must be followed by all states, which allows interpretation of rules and laws, simplifying dimensions of the international maritime mechanism. The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) chalks out a coherent framework for safety of sea ports and vessels, uniformity applying the same particularly from maritime nations will allow combating transnational threats.  Second, to maintain international harmony in the oceans and minimizing threats from transnational challenges; stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific must devise a collective and collaborative strategy based on joint intelligence sharing. Safety and security of LNG shipments are not only important for Australia, but global operations  depend on it. Though Australia has collaborated with various states in Asia-Pacific towards maritime security, it is equally essential to initiate a productive platform towards dialogue that will allow the Asia-Pacific century to become a reality. Maritime security for Australia and other states can be strengthened by adapting the existing international framework towards laws and regulations of the seas; perhaps, this could initiate discussion and consenting on alliance and cooperation in the oceans.

Mohid Iftikhar has Masters of Philosophy in Peace & Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Pakistan and Bachelor in Business Administration from University of Southern Queensland, Australia. He has completed a short course on Defence & Security Management in collaboration with Defence Academy, UK, Cranfield University and NDU, PK.  He is a member of Center for International Maritime Security and Associate member, the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, King’s College London. At present, he is working for the Federal Ministry of Planning Development & Reform in Pakistan.This article was prepared  by Mohid Iftikhar in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect of any Organization or Institute.