Two shipwrecks in UK waters are among the world’s first underwater archaeological sites to be recreated using 3D printing technology. Archaeologists have made a full colour model of a wreck near Drumbeg, in Sutherland, thought to date from the late 17th or early 18th century.
A print has also been made of HMHS Anglia, a World War One hospital ship lost off Folkestone in Kent in 1915. Wessex Archaeology worked with printing firms in Scotland and England after first investigating and scanning the wreck sites.
The first of the wrecks to be printed was the Drumbeg shipwreck. The wreck lies at a depth of 12m (39ft) in Eddrachillis Bay and consists of three cannon, two anchors and partial hull remains that lie on and below the seabed. The cannon are heavily encrusted and colonised by small red seaweeds.
Surveys of the wreck were first undertaken by archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology working on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland in 2012.
A technique called photogrammetry was used. It allows archaeologists to capture not only the 3D shape of the wreckage but also the colour and texture of features such as cannons and hull.
Since 2012 further surveys have been done using sonar and magnetometer sensors. For the 100m long (329ft) HMHS Anglia a sonar technique called multi-beam was used.
A high resolution 3D sonar survey of the site was carried out by Wessex Archaeology on behalf of Historic England in 2014. Historical information, including an illustration of the ship sinking, has guided the colouring of the model.