Underwater archaeology on the Basque coast

  • Underwater archaeology
  • Basque Coast
  • Teens aged 12 and over, adults
  • Several summer dates, depending on level
  • 2460.76 € - 837 € after tax deduction

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the royal fleets of the great powers clashed off the Basque coast. These wars left their mark on the ocean floor in the form of shipwrecks between Saint Jean de Luz and Hendaye. You'll dive to the site of the shipwrecks that occurred in the French-Spanish border zone, at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay. You'll learn the basics of underwater archaeology. All missions here

Creation of an underwater archaeological map

The wrecks of the naval battles that took place between the 16th and 19th centuries bear witness to a past that has yet to deliver all its messages. At the bottom of the ocean lie warships and merchant ships that still hold many secrets. The scientific project involves drawing up an archaeological map to showcase the sub-aquatic heritage. It is led by the Urpeko Ondarea association. It will provide answers to unanswered questions such as how these ships were built, navigation techniques and the causes of shipwrecks.

Week-long participatory research trips are organized. During daily expeditions, you explore underwater archaeological remains. Each trip corresponds to a pre-requisite technical diving level. Each level is correlated with the depth of the dives and the scientific tools deployed.

Underwater archaeology stay n°1 - beginners 

  • Teenagers aged 12 and over
  • No technical prerequisites.
  • August 11 to August 18, 2024

This scientific holiday is an introduction to underwater archaeology and diving. You'll learn to recognize remains hidden beneath the marine flora and fauna. You'll be trained in underwater diving techniques on sites containing wrecks from different eras. You'll travel back in time to the Viking era!
First, you'll explore the seabed using fins, mask and snorkel, before moving on to scuba diving. The program includes three scuba dives on archaeological sites in the Bay of Saint Jean de Luz.
A visit to Gordailua, Irun, to the Basque Country archaeological repository, to understand the steps that archaeological objects follow once discovered.

  • You'll receive your PE12 diving certificate from the French Federation of Underwater Studies and Sports (FFESSM). 

Underwater archaeology stay n°2 - teenagers aged 12 and over 

  • 3 dives with OSI or an approved club. This corresponds to the PE12 certificate.
  • August 18 to August 25, 2024

This tour focuses on the 17th century, a period marked by galleon shipwrecks in the Bay of Saint Jean de Luz. All underwater exploration is by scuba diving (4 dives). You'll use drawing as an underwater tool to research information about the object, its period and its history, once it's dry. You'll be introduced to traditional shipbuilding, so you'll be able to identify shipwrecked parts and hypothesize about the causes of the wreck.
A visit is planned to the naval architecture center on the reconstruction of a 16th-century whaler, the San Juan, at the Albaola Factory shipyard in Pasares, Spain.

  • At the end of their stay, participants can take the FFESSM (Fédération Française d'Études et de Sports Sous-Marins) level 1 course, if they wish.

Underwater archaeology stay n°3 - exploration 1 - teenagers aged 14 and over 

  • Prerequisites: FFESSM level 1. 
  • From July 7 to July 14, 2024

Archaeological research activities will be more intense than for stays 1 and 2. You'll be descending to sites 20 meters below the surface. Your observations will be longer and therefore more in-depth. You'll have to analyze photos and 3D models to reconstruct the wrecks you observe. You'll dive along the coast between Hendaye and Saint Jean de Luz. This trip will focus on the 17th century. You'll be introduced to prospecting techniques, using photography and 3D modeling to interpret an observed archaeological feature.

 Underwater archaeology stay n°4 - exploration 2 - teens from 14, adults and families

  • Prerequisites: FFESSM Level 1 + 5 dives
  • July 14 to July 21, 2024

All underwater exploration is carried out by scuba diving (4 dives). Archaeological research activities are quite intense, with dives at sites up to 30 meters deep. However, dives will be adapted to the group's technical, physical and mental aptitude for the depths. The main dive site will be a naval battle site in Hendaye.

This scientific vacation will enable you to  

  • Progress in scuba diving and underwater archaeology
  •  Discover stories full of maritime adventures and anecdotes, and meet characters who have left their mark on different eras;
  •  Understand the importance of history in understanding how a region or a town was shaped? What were the necessities of technological evolution?
  • Introduce you to archaeological photography and 3D modeling (stays 3 and 4).
  • To talk about Peace, one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development goals.
  • 2460.76 € - 837 € after tax deduction *
  • Stay 1 beginners (teenagers from age 12) no technical prerequisites.
    August 11 to August 18, 2024
  • Stay 2, open to PE12 participants(teenagers aged 12 and over)
    August 18 to August 25, 2024
  • Stay 3, exploration 1, (teenagers aged 14 and over) Prerequisite: FFESSM level 1.
    From July 7 to July 14, 2024
  •  Stay 4, explore 2 (teenagers over 14, adults and families)
    July 14 to July 21, 2024 

Tax deductible *

  • Adolescents, adults, families depending on dates
  • Different technical levels of diving required - A stay open to beginners.
    To take part in these stays, you MUST have:
    - A certificate of aquatic fluency (usually obtained during the secondary school curriculum) or to be drawn up in the pool.
    - A medical certificate of no contraindication to diving will be required. A visit to an ENT specialist is also recommended.


  • Accommodation
    The vacation center "La maison du littoral" in Ciboure or the Bella Vista center in Hendaye. In Ciboure, the center is located on the small port of Socoa. Rooms range from 4 to 8 beds, with shower and toilet facilities.
    In Hendaye, there are rooms for two adults and 4 to 6 teenagers. Meals are prepared by the center.

To get to the various places of interest, you can take the regular bus network that criss-crosses the Basque coastline on both the French and Spanish sides.

These participative science stays take place on the beautiful Basque coast.
You'll discover :

  • Remains of the Vauban ramparts in Hendaye
  • Plaiaundi Park, which over the centuries has become a ship graveyard and a natural area rich in waterfowl. 
  • Hendaye's beaches popular with surfers
  • Gipuzkoa Provincial Heritage Collection Centre 
  • An associative center for rebuilding traditional ships
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The NGO partner

Partner NGO Objectif Sciences international has Special Consultative Status with the UN (ECOSOC) and is a member of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition. Specializing in scientific trips, science and participatory research, the NGO believes that education is the driving force behind the Sustainable Development Goals. It offers a range of participatory science trips for adults and minors. All OSI programs here

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