Ribadeo Dive Experience

Photogrammetry by Brandon Mason on behalf of ForSEAdiscovery

We felt strongly that underwater archaeology is often not as well understood or seen by the general public. Its very nature makes it difficult for the public to visit, and therefore exposure to these underwater sites is very limited. We wanted to change that. 

We wanted to create a diving experience, to show people, especially non divers, what these sites really look like. we wanted to showcase these sites not as they existed in the past, but as they exist today in order to teach more about the current state of in situ archaeology, the environmental and logistical challenges underwater archaeologists face, and to use this as an opportunity to teach people about the history of these fascinating sites and shipwrecks.


We were lucky to find help from the ForSEAdiscovery project, a European funded (Grant agreement no.: 607545) project that combines dendrochronology, archaeology, and history in a multi-disciplinary approach to understand timber supplies for the construction of early modern vessels in the Iberian Peninsula. Part of this research included a dive campaign in the North of Spain, in Galicia in June 2015, where they investigated several wrecks, including the one pictured above, the Ribadeo Shipwreck. The Shipwreck is thought to be the 16th century Santiago de Galicia galleon, wrecked in November 1597. For more information about ForSEAdiscovery, check out their website forseadiscovery.eu  and you can read more about the fellows research on the Ribadeo shipwreck here and here.

The wreck was recorded with extensive photography by the project research fellows and partners, these photos were used to create a photogrammetric model. Photogrammetry is becoming a standard method of digital recording used by underwater archaeologists, and when done correctly it can produce an accruate three dimensional recording of a shipwreck, using a series of overlapping images. It is a very popular method of digital documentation because it can be done in as little as one dive on a site (with excellent visibility) and requires only a camera, a skilled operator, a computer, and patience. 

With the permission of the ForSEAdiscovery project, we put their photogrammetric model into Unreal Engine 4 and created an underwater environment around it. This environment was created by looking at real world dive videos from the archaeological investigation, photographs from the dive survey, and by talking to divers who were present. We took the sound effects from a video of one of the research fellows dive videos. We hoped to create something that really brought the player into the site, and that was true to the real world conditions faced by the archaeologists on the dive campaign. We were blown away by the results. 


Below is a video taken by a ForSEAdiscovery fellows during the Galicia campaign on the Ribadeo Shipwreck, and our creation, the Ribadeo Dive Experience.