2006 - A Little Project
Archaeological Diving around the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia

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Monday 15th May 2006     day 17     40C    

Farasan Hotel, Farasan Island, Saudi Arabia:
Met the others at 6am - Geoff has opted out to catch up with other work so we're just taking Steam and Saud.
Nipped into the village to get some bread and cheese for lunch, bought some fuel for the boats and got away about 7am.

We headed straight to Slick Point to make sure our shots were ok. Saw dolphins breaking the surface around the reef we dived the other day. A couple of us jumped in for a snorkel but, though we could hear them, we didn't see them.

Continued into the inlet on Qummah Island and anchored the boats to go ashore. Blue spotted rays were darting around under our feet as we paddled in. An interesting place and I got my first proper sight of a midden - one of the things here that the archaeologists get excited about. A midden is basically a rubbish tip, discarded shells in this case - just a mound maybe 2m high. What we can see is around 6000 years old but they've dug channels into some of them and believe that the lower levels may go back much further. We'll be looking for evidence of these underwater and if we find them we'll know they're from way back when the sea level was much lower. A good walk around in the blazing heat.


Then back in the boats and across to Dumsuq Island. We beached the boats in the main inlet and had a look around. I went for a snorkel and Simon had a quick dive on the single scuba set we have with us. I swam down and breathed off his spare reg at 15m for a few minutes. Kept feeling something touching me and found I'd acquired my own remora - a sucker fish that usually attaches itself to sharks and other big fish. It was about 600mm long and was biting/pecking/rasping at my bare chest. I brushed it away several times but it had taken a real liking to me and kept coming back. I thought it was very funny until I told Hans about it and he said he'd seen one bite the nipple off a bare chested male diver!!


Then round the corner to a nice bay where we beached again for lunch.


Back to Qummah to to see the other side - the other boat spotted a nurse shark on the way but we didn't see it. Some went ashore again but it didn't look very interesting so I went for another snorkel on a nearby reef - not great but it kills me not to be in the water here.

We got back to Farasan Island about 1600 and returned to the hotel. All feeling knackered and sunburnt - there was no escaping the sun today. Showered and wrote up some project log but I was dozey so laid on my bed - woke up at 2030 when Hans' phone rang! Fish and rice dinner in the hotel - barracuda on the menu - absolutely delicious. Interesting chat with Geoff about the carbon14 dating and thermo-luminescence dating methods they will use back in the UK to date the samples they're taking.

Few hours catching up the project log and my diary.

Simon's going to Jizan tomorrow morning to check out a compression chamber we've learnt about and been told we can use if necessary.

      High: great relaxing and tiring day in the boats
       Low: got a bit sunburnt

       whereami     Satellite view    

Tuesday 16th May 2006     day 18     40C    

Farasan Hotel, Farasan Island, Saudi Arabia:
Met at 0630 but there was a lot of dawdling and we didn't get away until 0730. Went to survey a midden that Geoff and Steam had previously trenched. We measured it out and GPS'd it and triangulated various points.


The trench was interesting though and showed clearly defined layers though it wasn't clear why or what timescales the layers represented.


Then we drove across the causeway to the adjacent As Saqid Island and through a little village.


At one place we looked over the edge and watched 2 blue-spotted rays feeding in the shallows.


We toured around finding loads of middens and GPSing and examining them. They were quite varied, some just scattered shells all of the same type, some big mounds of compacted and varied shells. Samples were taken for later analysis including dating. We also found ceramic fragments at a couple of sites.


Some good birdlife around - herons and sea eagles.


And another interesting little village. The first shot is 2 donkeys desparately trying to stay in the last bit of midday shade. The buildings in the other shots are made entirely from fossilised coral - as are the islands themselves.


We toured right along the west and north coast before returning to the hotel for lunch. We refuelled the boats as well.

Geoff and Simon are predictably delayed getting back from Jizan so we headed back to As Saqid Island and toured the south west coast - there's loads here, middens everywhere.


There was also a few of these giant bird nests. Not sure what bird.

We spent several hours bouncing around in 4x4 and finally visited this old tumbledown place as the light went. This again is all made from fossilised coral.


Back to the hotel and chilled out for a few hours waiting for Geoff and Simon to return for dinner. Late dinner about 1030 and bed.

      High: some interesting archaeology
       Low: still no insurance solution

       whereami     Satellite view    

Wednesday 17th May 2006     day 19     39C    

Farasan Hotel, Farasan Island, Saudi Arabia:
Up for 0630 breakfast meeting with Geoff about the medical indemnity insurance cover - still not resolved so diving is still off.

We all went back to the trenched midden and did some detailed measuring and drawing of the trench features - the thicknesses and composition of the various layers etc.


Back to the hotel at 1000 to check out and learnt that the Midyan was late leaving Jizan and our rendezvous has been put back a couple of hours. A few of us persuaded our driver to show us some of the local sights. Mainly an old fort and some very ornate old buildings. Note the islamic date on the sign.


Back to the boats and 45 mins back to the Midyan re-anchored off of Slick Point.

Quick meeting Simon, me, Trevor and Garry to update each other on the past few days. It was then decided that we should take the boats to Dumsuq Island, beach ours out of the water so we can fit the sonar transducer, and have a look around. On the island we soon fitted the transducer and a few of us went snorkelling.

      High: my back suddenly seems a lot better today
       Low: bloody insurance . . .

       whereami     Satellite view    

Thursday 18th May 2006     day 20     39C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up for an 8am briefing and out on the dive boat to do some surveying with gps and a depth-finding sonar. The sonar didn't work.

Back to the Midyan and I checked out the sonar and found the battery totally flat. We charged it for an hour and it seemed to start working so we left it to fully charge. Found it really hot later - looks like the battery has an internal short circuit. Think we can borrow a spare battery from the boat and try again tomorrow.

Long chat with Garry, Trevor and Simon about the insurance problem - we think that strictly speaking we probably shouldn't be doing any project work without medic cover but it's not clear. I drafted out a statement that we believed all activities other than diving were safe with only basic First Aid cover. Geoff Bailey joined the Midyan team later and signed the statement so we're clear to do other things.

Nipped out in the boat in the afternoon to move some buoys for tomorrows surveying. Also tried to get some larger scale surveying done with the Midyan but the captain called it off as the wind was up and rising.

7pm - we've got medical indemnity insurance!!! The final conclusion is that we were not covered by York Uni, despite being told that we were, and it doesn't seem like they could cover us so an alternative insurer has been found and sorted. Diving is back on.

We agreed the outline for tomorrow and I put together a detailed plan. I'm not diving tomorrow but I am the day after. We've got a busy day planned and it will be good to be getting on with something decent.

Watched a fairly decent movie "Catch Me If You Can" and got to bed late - 12:30.

      High: the insurance is finally resolved
       Low: the sonar not working

       whereami     Satellite view    

Friday 19th May 2006     day 21     39C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up early and busy getting everything ready for the first dive, Garry and Trevor.

I went out as Rescue Diver with Simon as Dive Supervisor and Geoff along for the ride.

Decent chat with Geoff while dive ongoing. He's a good bloke and is not too concerned about the problems we've had - he's putting a positive slant on it all and wants it to continue. Divers recovered and back to Midyan.

A few of us nipped ashore on Qummah Island to do a quick bit of land surveying for Garry. Lawrence and I doing the work really. We had trouble beaching the boat and discovered that the dive ladder had been left down and we'd badly bent it. Ooops - I must take a good part of the blame for that.


We replanned the afternoon for Hans and I to dive. Bit of a rush to get gas fills and get ourselves sorted and an archaeological briefing but we got out there.


An ok dive, we struggled a bit with the measurements Garry wanted but managed to get most of them. I tried to send up my SMB but the crack bottle was empty! - I didn't check it pre-dive but I did before my last dive and it's not been touched since - must have leaked away - really bloody annoyed with myself.

Busy evening tidying up after a late-ish dive and there's loads to write up as we've been busy today. Up until 1am getting all the reports straight and still not finished.

      High: got a dive in - my 2nd !! - and all the way down to 18m !!
       Low: annoying mistake with my SMB - should have pre-dive checked it

       whereami     Satellite view    

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