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A small hard-working consulting business based in St Andrews, Scotland. Established in 1996, Rovarch is a pioneer in the field of deep-water marine archaeology.
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Neil Cunningham Dobson
Founder and Director



  • Deep-water archaeological investigations and excavations

  • Shipwreck research

  • Project management

  • Report writing

  • Academic papers

  • Presentations

  • Lecturing

  • Media and TV

  • Offshore survival training

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The key to Rovarch’s success is due to Neil Cunningham Dobson, founder and director. Neil is one of a handful of uniquely talented scientists in the world who have successfully conducted ground-breaking archaeology and salvage in the challenging frontier of our planet’s deep waters.

Neil Cunningham Dobson is a deep-water marine archaeologist and salvor with decades of experience in the marine and offshore industries,  (Merchant Navy Deck Officer, Stability Officer on various oil rigs, offshore survival instructor/examiner, HSE part III commercial diver, IMCA ROV pilot). Neil has impressive skills in planning and implementing deep-ocean archaeological and salvage operations. He is one of only a very few marine archaeologists in the world who has successfully conducted archaeology in deep-water and successfully recovered, documented, and processed gold and silver coin and ingot cargoes. Neil is gifted with the unique ability to make science, history, and archaeology understandable, interesting, and fun.


Neil has worked on hundreds of shipwreck sites dating from 1st century B.C to 20th century in the oceans and seas around the world. Some of the many high-profile projects include the SS Republic, Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes “Black Swan”, HMS Victory, SS Gairsoppa, SS Central America, and the SS Empress of Britain. For the decade Neil has moved into the commercial deep-water salvage world acquiring new skills in directing the use of ROV’s, salvage tooling and subsea technology for the salvage of WWI and WWII merchant ships.

Neil conducts shipwreck research and writes technical and academic reports, papers and other publications on the shipwrecks and discoveries he investigates. One significant publication includes a series of research papers featured in Odyssey Marine Exploration’s archaeological volumes Oceans Odyssey. Neil also presents lectures at his local university and at various archaeological conferences and is a regular guest speaker.

Deep-water shipwreck investigations and salvage attract word-wide media attention and Neil’s work continues to be the subject of many articles in newspapers, journals and TV shows throughout the world. This exposure allows him to foster awareness of the importance of deep-water exploration and marine archaeology in understanding our maritime past. Neil particularly enjoys his involvement in TV documentaries as “The People’s Arch”’ and has starred in National Geographic, History Channel, PBS, Channel 5 and BBC shows about the various shipwrecks he has investigated. In 2008 he was featured in a Discovery Channel 12-part series Called Treasure Quest. Future TV shows and media work are in the pipeline. Recently Neil was a contributor for the National Geographic show Drain the Oceans.

When Neil is not at sea, travelling or researching and writing he has a busy home life in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, where his seafaring ancestors have lived for over 250 years. Neil is very involved with his local community. He has retired after serving 23 years as a member of the St Andrews Coastguard Rescue Team and over a decade as a Trustee of St Andrews Harbour Trust. Neil at present is a Community Councillor on the St Andrews Community Council. Neil in his family life has also attained grandfather status.



  • M.Litt Maritime Studies, University of St Andrews

  • IMCA ROV Pilot Certification

  • HSE Part III Commercial Diver – SCUBA/Surface Supplied

  • Sub Aqua Association, Sport Diving Instructor

  • Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Tutor

  • Associate member Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

  • NVQ Skills Trainer/Assessor Award (C21, D32)

  • Certificate of Offshore Survival Technology, Robert Gordons University

  • Qualified Merchant Navy Seaman

  • HM Coastguard, 23 years Coastguard Rescue Officer



  • Multi-skilled

  • Professional

  • Articulate

  • Flexible attitude

  • Determined

  • Enquiring

  • Enthusiastic

  • Thorough

  • Consummate professional

  • Talented

  • Diligent

  • Intuitive

  • Engaging


The name Rovarch reflects Neil being an

ROV-Archaeologist and a Roving-Archaeologist

Gulls in St Andrews Bay, Scotland   © Rovarch

Personal Summary

"I feel my greatest strengths are firstly my strong commitment to providing professional services to my clients. Secondly, my wide range of practical maritime knowledge, skills and experience allow me to foresee challenges and problems that may be encountered and to provide solutions based on the ‘big picture”. Thirdly, my unique ability to make science, history and archaeology understandable, interesting and fun".

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