Jarrod Jablonski, GUE Founder and CEO of Halcyon, made a whistle stop tour of the UK in September 2013. He gave two talks on 'Mars Makalos' - or 'Mars the Magnificent'. This aptly named 16th century warship took quite a bit of finding. She was discovered in May 2011 after a twenty-year search by a team of divers from Ocean Discovery that included GUE's Richard Lundgren.
To put the wreck into context, it would be fair to say that Mars is Sweden’s ‘Mary Rose’, and the comment that ‘this is the wreck find of the century’ is probably quite correct. Mars is considered so important that the current King of Sweden visited the team to see for himself how the exploration work is going.
The story of Mars and her subsequent discovery could be taken out of any ‘Boys Own’ annual, so it was no surprise that over 100 divers attended Jarrod’s talk, hosted by Manchester based DiveLife. Southern divers were not neglected either - Jarrod also spoke at Aquanauts in Plymouth.
Jarrod is a charismatic fluid speaker, and gave a highly entertaining presentation, actively involving his audience. He vividly brought images of a bunch of exceedingly large, very well preserved timbers and cannons to life, explaining about the ‘maritime battlefield’. Mars sank during a ferocious battle between Sweden and Denmark, and there is plentiful evidence of this. Divers were able to see how the ship burnt and they also found cannon balls embedded in the timbers. I was entranced, and Mars is now firmly included on my bucket list of diving.
I found watching the story of the exploration dives and the logistics involved enlightening. Having been involved with running the logistics on two HMHS Britannic expeditions, I can appreciate just what goes into running a major dive. The GUE ethos of running a unified dive team, standard gases and set way of rigging diving equipment, makes perfect sense when it comes to project diving. It saves so much faff time, and divers who have never met before will have a greater understanding of how their diving partners will behave underwater.
Diving on Mars has been very closely controlled and monitored and it is a perfect example of what amateur divers can achieve. Richard Lundgren’s team has been working hand in glove with scientists and academics to properly document and preserve Mars and her artifacts. Certain protocols have been put in place to protect the wreck and its environment. Lundgren’s team are trying to minimise the amount of oxygen in the water, therefore this has primarily been a rebreather expedition. And there has also been limited lifting of artifacts. A broken cannon and a small cannon that had previously only been seen in documents have been recovered and preserved. All the other cannons are remaining in situ for the time being. It looks as though work will continue in this significant wreck for many years to come.
Incidentally if you missed Jarrod speaking about Mars, you have the opportunity to see Richard Lundgren talk at the Nautical Archeology Society Conference on Saturday 2nd November in Portsmouth. More details on this can be found on the NAS website.
Article published: Sport Diver UK, November 2013 issue