The Seventh “P” – By Dr. Susan Langley

November 10, 2009

susanI recently ran across the following quotation regarding profiting from underwater history, archaeology and ocean environments:

“[Profit] A dirty word?  Should there be financial gain from encouraging respect of the ocean and the history it shrouds?  Of course! Even non-profit organizations survive on donations from other people’s earnings and revenues, which are generated by profit.  The Other ‘P’s depend on the support of the profit, as it depends on them.  Without it, Passion dwindles, the Product loses value, Protection & Preservation suffer, and Promotion becomes pointless.  No Profit, end of Dream!”

In the initial context I read this and its attribution to the President of a firm called Ocean Quest Inc., I ascribed it to a treasure hunter or other for-profit venture.  However, this didn’t mesh comfortably with the UNESCO source cited for it.  So I sought the source; a publication entitled Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk, Managing Natural and Human Impacts, edit by Robert Grenier, David Nutley and Ian Cochran (2006).  The volume is in the UNESCO online Library with restricted access that was readily given upon request and the volume as a whole is an excellent one.

The quotation above is part of the concluding paragraph of an article entitled, “It’s all about the ‘P’s” by Rick Stanley.  Stanley is indeed the President of Ocean Quest, Inc. Canada, which is an eco-tourism business, but he is also one of the founders of Ocean Net; a non-profit organization with the goal “To Instill an Ocean Conservation Ethic.”  He is also a member of the Steering Committee for Sustainable Tourism with Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador and an advisor to Parks Canada on the subject of SCUBA diving.  His article is less than three pages long and focuses on his group’s largely successful efforts with respect to the Bell Island Wrecks in Conception Bay, Newfoundland, as a microcosm of global possibilities.

This knowledge of course permits an entirely different take in reading the same paragraph.  Stanley is a dive shop owner and SCUBA instructor, not an archaeologist, but like many such businessmen he has recognized that vandalism and souvenir predation of wrecks, historic or otherwise, is detrimental to his bottom line.1 Therefore, it’s no surprise that he has a vested interest in generating a profit while preserving the submerged history of the region.  To this end, he is capitalizing on the rising current interest in eco-tourism or adventure tourism.  More and more visitors are not content to “see” a place they want to “do” a place; it’s experiential in a much more physical way than in the past.2

To look a little more closely at his “P’s, “ Protect & Preserve, and Passion, raise the specter of loving the resources to death; that there are impacts even in the most benign visitation but I believe there is a general consensus that this is justified to achieve long range goals.  His use of Product is not a reference to the commoditization of artifacts but of the experience, or the “Dream.”  Similarly, for archaeologists, Products are rarely artifacts but sections of grants or agreements specifying what the grantor will receive for its investment, such as reports, GIS, forms, images, and electronic remote sensing data.  This leaves Stanley’s Promotion and Profit, to which I would add a seven P, Partnerships.

In his view promoting his product, eco-adventures/tourism, is a road to both profit and preservation.  For public sector entities, promotion can best be seen as what is generally termed educational outreach with one of its goals being some level of financial return; not usually outright profit but often grant funds to offset or cover costs, usually in a matching arrangement for in-kind contributions of time, goods, or services.  There is discussion among archaeologists as to where the ethical tipping point lies for generating funds from submerged cultural resources; one group argues that as the patrimony of humanity, any fundraising from these sites is exploitation and should be abjured, another that so long as there is minimal physical contact or impact that films, books and experiential visits are acceptable means of educational outreach with the benefit of covering the costs of interpretation or funding additional research.  Into the latter also falls the category of what may be termed the “Polluter Pays,” to add a few more “P’s.”  Many public sector agencies are now requiring that proponents of undertakings that will impact submerged cultural resources include educational components, as well as legally mandated surveys and mitigation.  In cases of legal prosecution, those found guilty cannot physically return a site to its pre-impact state. The Courts are therefore prone to calculating what the costs would have been to undertake excavation of the site if it had been done scientifically, of analyzing any materials already recovered and other costs, and fining the guilty party to have this done. In cases where it cannot be done, the monetary penalty would be used to cover costs of research at another site, usually determined in cooperation with the relevant State or federal entity.

Stanley makes a valid point that, for non-profits, even the donations they solicit/receive are the result of someone’s profit, although one would expect not from illegal or unethical behavior toward archaeological or historical sites and materials.  I doubt there is an archaeologist who hasn’t skulked Ninja-like around an exhibit (s)he finds ethically dubious noting which firms would sponsor it, collecting paper materials to see how it is being spun to the public and so forth.  Conversely, at well realized exhibits, one cribs ideas for grant applications, clever marketing methods and looks for potential Partners in the form of funding entities, institutions, and private sector sponsors.

In general, the public sector doesn’t expect to make a profit, and in some situations is legally prohibited from so doing.  It can usually, at best, break even and often that is a long shot but it can only even attempt this through sound partnerships.  Usually this involves a mix of State, federal, and local government agencies and non-profit organizations plus volunteers from the general public.  I am including students, educational institutions and museums in the foregoing governmental categories.  In tough economic times, many of these fade as possible partners as their upstream funding sources are cut-back, donations and memberships diminish or dry up entirely as people economize, and staffs and budgets shrink without the diminution of ongoing duties and responsibilities.   This results in realignments of priorities, and in more and more entities competing for dwindling monetary resources.  The upshot is that the deepest pockets are found at the federal level and in the private sector.  With respect to the former there is more competition for fewer funds which can limit the nature of research than may be undertaken, or require putting more people at the table to obtain the funding which then can translate into additional research responsibilities to meet the interest/needs of the additional partners and add more layers of complexity.  In the case of private sector partners, many of these have recently taken sufficient financial losses that they don’t need a tax deduction for their donation, and there can be the double-edged sword of the parody of “The Golden Rule;” that those with the gold make the rules or at least think they ought to be allowed to make decisions or hold control of matters that public sector entities must retain.  One other caveat is that a private sector partner may also be a sponsor of other projects or a proponent of issues with which one would prefer not or cannot be associated.  Despite the negative possibilities, many of us are privileged to work with solid individuals in the private sector, like Rick Stanley, or non-profit organizations with comparable goals or similar messages.  The vision, or perhaps I should say Perspective (to remain consistent with the “P’s”), of these people and groups and their flexibility have permitted some interesting and creative approaches to meeting public sector research goals and remain the mainstay of such endeavors regardless of the prevailing economic winds.


2Tarzan was an Eco-Tourist, and Other Tales in the Anthropology of Adventure (2006) is a volume that is an outgrowth of a conference addressing what constitutes “adventure” and while there is not a chapter addressing diving, many of the contributions are clearly comparable.  Conquest of the environment, albeit in a less destructive manner that in earlier times, overcoming challenges to oneself, with an element of danger are all common tropes.  That there is indeed danger and that it is real and not perceived or contrived for participants needs to be borne in mind (http://www.cdnn.info/news/safety/s070204.html).


Stanley, Rick. 2006. “It’s all about the ‘P’s.” in Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk: Managing Natural and Human Impacts. R. Grenier, D. Nuttley and I Cochran, editors.  Heritage at Risk, Special Edition. ICOMOS, UNESCO. Pp. 2-4.

Vivanco, L and R. Gordon, editors. 2006.  Tarzan was an Eco-Tourist, and Other Tales in the Anthropology of Adventure, Berghahn Books, NY.


Dr. Susan Langley is the Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist, a position housed in the State Historic Preservation Office/Maryland Historical Trust. In addition to holding Adjunct Professor positions at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, she holds the Archaeological Research Chair on the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary’s Sanctuary Advisory Council and serves on the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology.  She holds a BA with Honors in Anthropology from Trinity College, University of Toronto, and an MA and Ph.D. in Archaeology with emphasis on law and underwater archaeology from The University of Calgary.  She also has Certificates in Heritage Resource Management through the Faculty of Environmental Design at The University of Calgary and as a Master Spinner from Olds College.  A professional diver for more than 30 years, she is also a Master SCUBA Diver Trainer, and an Instructor in both Emergency First Response and Oxygen Provision.  In addition to book reviews and chapters for larger volumes, she is presently working on a book about her research involving a proposal to build aircraft carriers of ice during WWII. U-Haul International is currently featuring her project as a Supergraphic on 1500 of its trucks; more information may be found at: http://www.uhaul.com/supergraphics/landing.aspx?site_id=169&sort_order=0.

* The opinions expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of the MUA, its staff, or its partner organizations.



  1. I may be wrong but your interesting and thoughtful contribution does not grasp the nettle of the arguments for and against the financing of scientific exploitation of shipwreck sites by the controlled sale of recorded serial objects. This raises both hackles and deeply felt ‘ethics’, and here we come near to a form of religious conviction.
    Never mind the treasure which is the more extreme
    sector of demonisation – but explain what governs the need to keep together the countless (pun)
    thousands of say musket balls, stone flints, brass thimbles all identical, all fully recorded – when perhaps less than 1% will ever be exhibited to the public. Then store, curate, annually ‘conserve’, insure and provide PHd students access and facilities to prepare learned papers on the minute differences missed by original recorders and cosnervators – and see where your scarce resources go then.

  2. What is the point of this site if comments on important aspects of the blog are ignored? Dr Langleys long blog bristled with contentious ‘issues’ and her c.v. is huge so she has a lot to explain or defend.

  3. Hi Rex,
    The point of this site, or to be more accurate the Guest Blogger portion of the site, is to offer some of the leading figures in underwater archaeology a forum for writing on subjects related to the field that are of interest to them. When the MUA invites its guest bloggers we do not make it a requirement for them to respond to comments. That function is available to them if they wish to use it but if they are unable to because of schedules or are not interested then that is their choice. In some cases they may not be immediately available for any number or reasons when the MUA actually posts their submission which can be weeks after they send it to us. We do appreciate your visiting the MUA though and hope you still find it worthwhile despite not yet receiving a reply to your comment.

    Best regards,
    T Kurt Knoerl
    The MUA

  4. Dear Kurt,
    It may not be required to reply to comments on a scientific or political blog – but it is in the nature of a democratic notice-board of this kind
    that advocatrs field criticism of blog contents – particularly if they are in a position of domestic power. So I do hope to hear Dr Langley’s views.
    Best regards

  5. […] KEEP READING ON THE UNDERWATER BLOGGER » November 26th, 2009 | Tags: Eco-Tourism, Historic Preservation, Marine Archaeology, Marine Biology and Oceanography, Nautical History, SCUBA, Sustainability | Category: Business, Canada, Destinations & Tourism, Editorial, Musings & Food for Thought, Oceans, Science and Nature, Shipwrecks | Leave a comment | […]

  6. Dear Kurt,
    No reply to my comment so sadly this site looks as if it could become just a place for posting a ream of unchallenged viewpoints.

  7. Rex, I don’t think the site will become as you put it, “a place for posting a ream of unchallenged viewpoints.” since you yourself posted a challenge Dr. Langley’s viewpoint. Further more other comments to guest bloggers have received responses. Freedom of discussion means that viewers have the option to either comment or not. I have extended that freedom to the authors as well. Actually it is your views on the subject Dr. Langely raised that remain unchallenged not hers.



  8. Dear Kurt,
    When all that is said the plain fact is that your highly qualified, senior regulator in the field has not replied to relevant comments on her ex-cathedra text.
    I write as one who has been working in this field for over 40 years.

  9. Dear Kurt,
    I notice that virtually all of your contributors who expound the current ‘ethical’ approachs to maritime archaeology awaken no comments on their
    musings.My thoughtful comments on Dr Langtry went unanswered and ignored. This is disapointing. I am sure you would not want your blog site to just be used for those who repeat current archaeo political fashion statements.
    Not quite what Bovisand was all about.

  10. My family is planing to go to to Florida for vacation this summer. And I want to go scuba diving, but my mom wants to know how much it would cost? Any ideas?.

  11. May I know if you are our lecturer in SPAFA training course in Underwater Archaeology held in Thailand last 1979 about Underwater Archaeology in Canada.
    Ed Conese

  12. Hi Ms. Susan Langley, its been a long time of not hearing from you after the training course in Underwater Archaeology in Thailand. As for me, Ive been with the group of the Far Eastern Foundation for Nautical Archaeology headed by Frank Goddio undertaking underwater archaeological surveys and excavation here in the Philippines.Hearing from you soon.

  13. Dear Dr. Langley,

    My name is Keli Asamoah; I was born in Ghana, earned a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from Tuskegee University in Alabama, and have served both as a Water Specialist in the U.S. Army, and an Agriculture Specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    I am fascinated with human history and the potential exciting evidence of the transcontinental excursions that took place 400 to 500 years ago between Holland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the West African Coast. The bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ghana must surely be ripe with ship wrecks, human remains and various cargo discarded from top heavy ships whose captains needed to lighten their load.

    Have you considered exploring the sea bottom off Ghana (the Gold Coast)? I am closely connected to members of the current administration and I would love it if an organization like yours could help to uncover buried maritime secrets of Ghana’s colonial past, particularly in the Western Region and Upper Volta Region (via the River Volta) where British Slavers would have undoubtedly explored as a result of the impenetrable resistance shown by the Ashanti tribe along Ghana’s southwestern coast. Please respond.

    PS, I’d like to attach two articles u may be interested in regarding the only undersea excavation off the coast of sub-Saharan Africa. Let me know if I could email them to you.

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