Iona II Dive Trail shortlisted in the AHI 2015 Discover Heritage Awards


The Iona II Dive Trail off Lundy Island in the UK’s Bristol Channel has been shortlisted in the Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI) 2015 Discover Heritage Awards in the Interpretation for a Target Audience category.  The shortlist nomination adds to the growing recognition of Historic England’s underwater diver trails for protected historic wreck sites.

Launched last summer, the Iona II Dive Trail was created by Historic England and Wessex Archaeology with the local diving community to encourage responsible licensed access to the only protected 19th century paddle steamer lying in British waters.

The Iona II has a colourful history as it was believed to have been involved in running guns and supplies for the Confederate Forces of the American Civil War. She sank in 1864 in foggy conditions in the Bristol Channel on her first trans-Atlantic voyage amidst rumours about her cargo.

Divers on the trail are given underwater guides to help them navigate the wreck and recognise key features such as the remains of the ferry’s engines, boilers and components of the paddle wheels which are still visible on the seabed. Divers can also actively help in the preservation of the wreck by sharing their images and video footage allowing changes to the wreck site to be carefully monitored over time.

Alison James, Maritime Archaeologist for Historic England said: “The Iona II is the newest of five underwater dive trails we have successfully launched since 2009 and is proving popular. This exciting nomination adds to the growing awareness of Historic England’s diver tourist trails. UNESCO has already recognised the trails as international examples of best practice for public access.”

The four other underwater trails run by Historic England with partners are: HMS/mA1 Submarine, the first British-designed and built submarine used by the Royal Navy which sank in 1911 in the Solent; HMS Colossus, a 74-gun warship built in 1787 which sank off the Isles of Scilly in 1798; the Coronation built in 1685 and lost off the coast of Plymouth in 1691; and the Norman’s Bay Wreck, possibly a Dutch ship which sank during the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690 near Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex.

AHI received a record number 49 entries to the re-launch year of its prestigious awards, now being held biennially. AHI Discover Heritage Awards are the only UK and Irish awards to recognise all types of heritage interpretation. Projects of all shapes, sizes and budgets were entered from England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The quality of interpretation was consistently high, which reflects the strength of heritage interpretation across the UK and Ireland. Shortlisted and commended sites were chosen by a team of interpretation experts from around the UK and Ireland.

The winners will be announced by AHI patron Loyd Grossman at the gala awards ceremony, held at the AHI conference on 21 October 2015 at the Hilton Central Hotel, Newbury.

Bill Bevan, AHI Vice-Chair said: “The number and quality of entrants into the AHI 2015 Discover Heritage Awards made short-listing an exceptionally tough process. The shortlist represents some of the best recent heritage interpretation projects in Britain and Ireland. We are delighted that the shortlist ranges from small to large projects. It is an international badge of excellence whether a site wins, or is shortlisted or commended in one of the categories.”

The AHI Discover Heritage Awards are the only UK and Irish awards to recognise excellence in all types and sizes of heritage interpretation whether held in museums, historic buildings, visitor centres or any type of outdoor location. Any form of media is suitable including exhibition, print, digital, art or live. An eligible project can be small or large. Whether it is a new leaflet or a million-pound visitor centre (or anything in between), the awards celebrate projects that best meet their interpretive aims and successfully communicate their key messages to their audiences.

For a full list of shortlisted and commended entries, click here.

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