Adventurer Heather’s in at the deep end

Diving in the Arabian Gulf
Diving in the Arabian Gulf

Not many people can say their day job is diving for buried treasure around a 500-year-old shipwreck and swimming with whales.

But that’s exactly what conservationist Heather Stewart has been doing as part of a salvage team off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea.

Heather (27) from Lenzie, is the only female among 52 conservationists, archaeologists and crew exploring the wreckage of Portuguese vessel Esmeralda.

The ship, part of famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama’s Armada to India, went down in 1503 during a storm off the Al Hallaniyah island.

To date, around 2,800 artefacts have been recovered from its sunken remains and Heather has been in at the deep end, helping to excavate the site and preserve relics for museum display.

Heather, who is a former pupil of Millersneuk Primary and Lenzie Academy, has an MA in Archaeology and an MA in Conservation.

She told the Herald: “I have always been interested in historical stuff.

“I would go walking with my dad on Lenzie Moss when I was young and we would end up finding all sorts of things. I even came home once with a pile of Victorian bottles.

“I have always wanted a full-time job in conservation.”

Heather was recommended for the opportunity of a lifetime in Oman by the York Archaeological Trust after working with them on placement from Durham University.

She is quite relaxed about being the only female member of the team.

Heather said: “We all stay below deck and I have my own section at one end of the ship.

“The rest of the team are brilliant. I don’t know why I am the only woman there but it doesn’t bother me at all.”

She joked: “You can spot me instantly underwater. I am the only one with pink flippers!”

Another highlight for Heather is the amazing wildlife in the area.

She said: “Two Minke whales came over to one of our speedboats. They just swam around the boat. They were very curious.

“It was an amazing experience to see them so close up.”

Heather is home for a break but is due to set sail again for the Oman dive site in April.