Spatial and temporal variability in geomorphic change at tidally influenced shipwreck sites: The use of time‐lapse multibeam data for the assessment of site formation processes

Jan Majcher, Rory Quinn, Ruth Plets, Mark Coughlan, Chris McGonigle, Fabio Sacchetti, Kieran Westley

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Abstract

Shipwrecks are an integral part of our maritime archaeological landscape and are associated with diverse societal and cultural interests, yielding significant management challenges. Coupled hydrodynamic and geomorphological processes significantly impact the effective in situ preservation of these fragile sites. In this study, we assess sediment budget change and hydrodynamic triggers at metal‐hulled shipwrecks lost between 1875 and 1918, all located in the tidally dominated Irish Sea at depths between 26 and 84 m. This is conducted using time‐lapse, multibeam echosounder surveys at multiannual, annual, and weekly time steps, supported by sediment grain‐size analysis, modeled ocean currents, and shallow seismic data. Results indicate significant changes at all time steps for sites located in sand‐dominated environments, whereas the seabed around shipwrecks settled in multimodal sediments shows virtually no change outside of measurement errors (±30 cm). Variability in geomorphic change is attributed to local environmental factors, including bed shear stress, sediment supply, and spatial barriers to scour. We demonstrate that individual wrecks in similar shelf sea regions can be in very different equilibrium states, which has critical implications for the in situ management of underwater cultural heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalGeoarchaeology
Early online date9 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • marine geoarchaeology
  • seabed geomorphology
  • sediment transport
  • shipwreck
  • site formation processes

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