Last month, II let you in on a little secret. I broke one of my golden rules, played favourites, and it seems you liked it. A lot!
So, today I am doing it again.
I’m going to share with you my top five low-tech survey gear tips. Tried and tested by yours truly. I’ve done the hard yards, so you don’t have to. I’ve personally picked, packed, and paid for, every last thing on the list.
And, what a list it is.
HULTAFORS FOLDING RULE
Hultafors is the stuff of legend! Its story started in 1883 when a young engineer, Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollén, invented a measuring device that would facilitate Sweden’s conversion to the metric system – the folding rule!
Firmly placed at number 1, Hultafors folding rule is – by far – my all-time favourite maritime archaeology tool.
Well, for starters, the Hultafors folding rule is made from fibreglass-reinforced polyamide that resists moisture. It is bright yellow in colour (easily seen underwater), sinks (when you put it down, it won’t float away), and the scale is written in bold black on both sides. And, the print does not come off! The rule has metric measurements along the lower edge and imperial along the top. This is perfect for when you need to record in metric, but interpret something built to an imperial scale, like a historic shipwreck.
The best bit? There are no metal parts. There is also no sticky-outy hinge in the corner, to get in the way. It won’t rust, cease, or fall apart, and is in my experience is pretty much indestructible! I know because I’ve tried to destroy mine (long story) and I couldn’t do it.
I bought my two-metre G61 in Nordiska Kompaniet on a snowy Stockholm morning in February 2005. It has been to over 30 countries, suffered countless abuse from my field school students, been bashed about on the boat, and it looks as good as new 15 years later. Love.
OVERSIZED PVC SURVEY BOARDS
Rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) survey boards are an absolute must for writing, drawing or sketching underwater. Make sure you buy the board cut oversized. The board needs to be large enough to take an A4 recording form with sufficient space in the margin to allow you to tape it down without water getting in underneath. I promise you there is nothing worse than trying to write on something with moveable water bubbles underneath; it’s inefficient and annoying − particularly when narked!
The survey board should be five millimetres thick, as it provides (in my humble opinion) the perfect combination of weight and rigidity. It needs rounded edges, so you don’t stab yourself in the eye while kitting up; and has a hole in one corner so that you can attach a pencil to it, and it to yourself.
The boards have no metal or mechanical parts, so they won’t rust or break. They sink, so when you put it down, it stays there, and like the Hultafors folding rule, they seemingly last forever! I may have lost a few to light-fingered students, but I’ve never broken one. In fact, it’s the perfect underwater accompaniment.
You can buy these in both A3 (perfect for illustrative sketches or measured drawings) and A4. Now that I’m living in China, I’ve my own made up from a local manufacturer. If you shop around, I’m sure you will find someone who can do the same.
Remember, if you are going to get some made, please make sure they are PVC. Don’t settle for anything else as other resins float, become brittle in the water and break, so if you don’t want to be replacing your board every third dive – PVC is the way to go!
Sounds like a weird thing to use maritime archaeology, right? Well, as the MasterCard advert says, it is priceless.
Actually, surgical tubing is really very cheap. It is also bendy, and won’t break down in the water. It has excellent gripping power, retains its elastic memory even after repeated stretching, and is super smooth. Because the unique dipping process eliminates die lines and seams, the tubing lasts longer, grips better and bounces back time and time again. Oh, and make sure you get the latex kind, or it won’t always bounce back.
I use mine in all manner of ways. I use it to attaching my trauma shears (which I carry along with a knife) to myself, or my BCD, but in this instance, it is perfect for tying one’s survey board to one’s pencil. It won’t knot, stretches amazingly, and you can poke one of the sharpened ends inside the tubing, so you don’t poke yourself with it. Better still, if everything goes to pot on the dive, you can also use it as a tourniquet band.
Take it from me, if you are trying to write underwater, you don’t want anything that is going to rust, break or go soggy. So, no metal, no moveable parts and no wood – capiche!
A genius invention, wood-free pencils are generally plastic, resin or polymer. They are often called eco-pencils as they are manufactured from recycled materials. Eco-pencils will not split, splinter or break. The pencils have no metal or mechanical parts, so they will not rust, snap or cease. The lead will sharpen to a precise point, and it will stay sharp for many dives. Better still, the pencils do not damage the environment as they don’t precipitate the killing of trees.
Buy your eco-pencils with a hexagonal body if you can. The hexagonal shape is comfortable to grasp when wearing thick gloves, which can be troublesome when working in cold water. Better yet, the hexagonal body is firmly gripped by the surgical tubing you are now using to attach the pencil to your
oversized PVC survey board!
Whatever you do, do not buy a pencil with an eraser attached. Why? The metal ferrule will rust, and you’ll lose the eraser. No big deal, I hear you say. Unless, of course, this happens underwater, as the eraser is the perfect size to choke a fish who thinks he has just found dinner.
Don’t forget to sharpen the pencil at both ends before you get in the water. The one you are not writing with can be tucked up into the grip of your surgical tubing, so you don’t poke yourself in the face!
Permatrace is possibly the best thing since sliced bread! It is effectively clear ‘paper’ that you can write on underwater. In Australia, it’s called waterproof drafting film. In Canada, it is called mylar.
The trick here is to buy it double matt and precut to A4 for three reasons:
1) so you can run it through the printer to make template recording forms;
2) to enable a 5-metre site drawing to a 1:20 scale on a blank sheet; and
3) so it fits on your oversized A4 survey board!
Another top tip – make sure you buy archival quality (75 microns). It lasts forever (well, almost!), and if not buying ‘Permatrace’ brand, make sure it is waterproof!!!
That’s it for my top tips. Now tell me, what’s your top tip for underwater work? I would love to know!
Image © Splash! Project