Underwater News - August 2006
Reported by Toni Carrell
The two main projects the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center (NPS-SRC) continued in 2005 include the USS Arizona Preservation Project (see Hawai’i) and a multiyear study in Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LAME). The SRC continued work on submerged sites in LAME, including a B-29 Superfortress in 200 ft. of water and industrial sites associated with Hoover Dam construction approximately 150-170 ft. deep. May fieldwork focused on preparing to open visitation of the B-29 to technical diver access on a permitted basis. We finalized baseline site monitoring documentation, set mooring buoys and guidelines, and collected video footage for an orientation video, as well as consulted with local scuba organizations about planned public access to the site. SRC and LAME personnel also conducted preliminary investigation of a 1930s aggregate sorting plant used in dam construction. The 2005 field project was the second year of a planned 3-5 year project in LAME assessing submerged sites associated with all aspects of area usage, both before and after reservoir creation.
The NPS-SRC continued the USS Arizona Preservation Project, including continuing research on the Japanese Midget Sub outside Pearl Harbor. The NPS-SRC fieldwork on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor was part of a multiyear, interdisciplinary project to characterize critical processes affecting Arizona, develop a predictive engineering model to calculate diminishing structural integrity over time, and produce a long-term preservation plan for the battleship including management alternatives. The NPS-SRC worked closely with USS Arizona Memorial (USAR) staff, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, and volunteers from Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources (CMAR) to conduct fieldwork as part of a Department of Defense Legacy Resources Management Fund project, which focused on several key elements to the overall project: the USGS investigation of sediments supporting Arizona, Finite Element Model (FEM) development, and determination of hydrocarbon load contributed by Arizona in Pearl Harbor.
The SRC also continued the multiagency (NOAA/NPS/HURL) investigation of a Japanese Midget Sub sunk outside Pearl Harbor during the December 1941 Japanese attack. Fieldwork, conducted during a two-day window in August, focused on collecting exterior corrosion data and interior visual data for a baseline condition assessment of the submarine.
The wrecks of the coal schooners Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary, which rest on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary seafloor, have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. "The Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary’s historical, architectural, and archaeological significance makes the vessels the best examples of the great New England coal schooners," said Craig MacDonald, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary superintendent.
The Maine-built wooden-hulled four-masted schooner Frank A. Palmer and five-masted schooner Louise B. Crary played a vital role as coal carriers during the urbanization and industrialization of New England at the beginning of the 20th century. During their relatively short careers, the schooners carried thousands of tons of coal used to generate steam power in the locomotives and electric power plants that were dramatically changing American life. The schooners exemplify a critical transportation network that supplied New England’s energy needs and their involvement in the coal trade connects them to Americans along the East Coast. The schooners rest on the seafloor, their bows touching in the same orientation in which they plunged to the seafloor after their collision in 1902. A miscalculation by the Louise B. Crary’s mate caused it to smash into the Frank A. Palmer’s portside bow. Within minutes of the collision, 6 of the 21 sailors onboard the vessels had drowned. The remaining 15 sailors made it into the Palmer’s longboat with only the clothing they were wearing, but without food or water. During the following four days, five more men perished from exposure before being rescued more than 60 miles east of Cape Cod.
Investigations of the site revealed the vessels’ hulls to be nearly intact with rigging played across the deck from the oal schooner archaeological site identified thus far is it possible to study two vessels with such extensive preservation. How the schooners sank, and the condition of the wreck site, provide a unique archaeological opportunity to compare two similar, but slightly different vessels, engaged in the same trade.
Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut confirmed the Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary’s location within the sanctuary in 2002 based upon the coordinates supplied by maritime researchers H. Arnold Carr and John P. Fish. Since then, NOAA and University of Connecticut scientists and archaeologists have visited the wrecks annually with a remotely operated vehicle to monitor, study, and document their condition.
The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut have been active partners since the sanctuary’s designation by Congress in 1992. Technical support from NURC-UConn has been crucial to satisfying the sanctuary’s mandate to inventory, assess, nominate to the National Register of Historic Places, interpret, and manage its maritime heritage resources. Through this partnership, NOAA and NURC-UConn scientists have located over a dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary and completed detailed investigations of the sites with side scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles.
Lake George, New York’s Submerged Heritage Preserves, a state-administered shipwreck park for scuba divers that opened in 1993, will undergo a "facelift" in 2006. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the state agency that administers the underwater park, has provided $2,000 for the replacement of some of the preserve’s underwater signage and trail lines. This is the first major upgrading of preserve hardware since 1997-1998 when one of the three sites in the shipwreck preserve system, called The Forward, underwent a transformation into "The Forward Underwater Classroom." All three of the preserve’s sites–"The Sunken Fleet of 1758," "The Forward Underwater Classroom," and "Land Tortoise–A 1758 Floating Gun Battery"–will get replacement signage for aging signs. Furthermore, the nearly 450 ft. of trail lines at "The Forward Underwater Classroom" will be redesigned to minimize the possibility of damage from errant fishing tackle and anchors. Two of the sites–"The Sunken Fleet of 1758" and "Land Tortoise–A 1758 Floating Gun Battery"–are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1998, the Land Tortoise radeau shipwreck was designated a National Historic Landmark. The fieldwork to upgrade the three preserve sites will be conducted by Bateaux Below, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that conducts underwater archaeology in the 32-mile-long Lake George.
Furthermore, a new building in Lake George, New York called the Lake George Visitor Center will open soon. The structure, a gateway to encourage tourism, will have a panel and video exhibit about a new initiative, the New York State Underwater Blueway Trail. The Underwater Blueway Trail is a New York State Department of State program to provide public access to shipwrecks for divers as well as to inform both scuba enthusiasts and non-divers about the Empire State’s vast maritime heritage. The Underwater Blueway Trail is a pilot project for six waterways and six corresponding municipalities. The concept is to create shipwreck preserves or parks in these six waterways with land-based exhibits, program brochures, Web sites, shoreside signage, and informative mini-documentaries, all to promote tourism and foster preservation and protection of the state’s submerged cultural resources. The lead municipality for the endeavor is the Village of Lake George. The other five participating waterways and municipalities are:
It is envisioned that within two years that each of these waterways will have one to two new shipwreck preserves with related information exhibits, brochures, Web sites, etc. Prior to any shipwreck being opened for diver visitation, each site will be archaeologically investigated. The New York State Underwater Blueway Trail exhibit in the new Lake George Visitor Center was designed by Bateaux Below, Inc., Pepe Productions, and Adirondack Studios.
In September, Dr. Thorne Compton, Senior Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Science at the University of South Carolina, replaced Dr. Jonathan Leader as SCIAA’s Interim Director. The Dean of the College plans to appoint a broad-based search committee early next year that will guide the search for and hiring of a permanent director for the Institute. Michael Murray joined the MRD in September as the Division’s 4th Manager of the Sport Diver Archaeology Management Program in the Division’s Charleston Office. Mike came to SCIAA with many years of experience as a Marine Science Educator on training sailing vessels and in digitizing Florida’s archaeological site files. He received his degrees from the University of Idaho and the University of Southampton. Mike plans to concentrate on the following:
Throughout the year, Jim Spirek and Christopher Amer presented numerous public lectures on the Division’s projects, including the Hunley, the Port Royal Sound Survey, the South Carolina Naval Wrecks Survey and the Division’s most recent project, a survey for the 1526 wreck of Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon’s Capitana.
In January, Christopher Amer and Jon Leader met with Dr. Dolores Elkin, director of Argentina’s Programa de Arqueología Subacuática to lay the groundwork for a cooperative agreement between SCIAA and that country to train their underwater archaeologists in remote sensing techniques and conduct mutually beneficial archaeology projects in Argentina’s waters.
Currently, Jim Spirek is preparing a draft report of the work and findings from the Callawassie Island Archaeological Prospecting Survey, a subcomponent of the Port Royal Sound Survey. The report will hopefully be ready for review by the beginning of next year. The survey was funded by the Callawassie Island Stewards, Inc. and private residents of the island. Survey operations occurred in spring 2004 and ground-truthing inspections of prioritized anomalies occurred in late spring 2005. Findings included a number of crab traps and an assortment of modern debris, but unfortunately nothing of great cultural significance. One anomaly not identified because it was buried beyond metal detector range bears further investigation to determine its source and historical or archaeological significance.
With funding from the South Carolina Archaeological Research Trust, in August the MRD began an archaeological survey to locate the Capitana. The vessel, described contemporaneously by the Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes as a nao, wrecked off Winyah Bay, South Carolina in 1526 during a failed attempt by the Spanish to establish the first European settlement in North America. Archival research suggests that the wreck lies near the entrance to Winyah Bay, which was the focus of the survey. Unfortunately, after only one week of survey the Division’s cesium magnetometer failed and required extensive repair. We currently plan to continue the survey next year and have been actively seeking additional funding to enable us to expand the scope of the survey. The MRD is working in collaboration with Drs. Scott Harris and Eric Wright, coastal geologists from the Department of Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University, who are reconstructing the 1526 shoreline and entrance to the bay to help guide the placement of survey priority areas.
In November, MRD staff removed the mooring buoys for the season and assessed the condition of the sites on the heritage trail. The infrastructure of buoys, mooring blocks, and trail lines that were replaced in spring 2005 has fared well through the year. Of the five sites comprising the trail, three seem to have suffered no noticeable deterioration or effects from visiting divers. The Pimlico Barge, however, appeared to have suffered an anchor drag that broke away part of a run of planking, while the Mepkin Wreck, a late 18th- to early 19th-century sailing vessel, showed signs of general deterioration either from visitation or ongoing environmental degradation. Strategies to forestall the continuing deterioration of the sites will be discussed over the winter and implemented when reopening the trail in the spring of next year.
Yearly, the MRD receives several thousand public notices a year from permitting agencies, primarily the Office of Coastal Resource Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, concerning proposed works affecting navigable waterways in South Carolina. Most of the public notices received deal with the construction of private docks for individuals or communities. For these and other projects the MRD working in concert with the SHPO often issues standard responses to the applicant to inform our respective institutions if archaeological materials are encountered during construction. There are also several proposed beach renourishment projects in the works. In each case we have recommended submerged cultural resource survey be conducted. Earlier in the year, one such survey produced a rather stunning sonar image of a shipwreck in the middle of the proposed borrow area.
For English Heritage’s Maritime Archaeology Team 2005 has, once again, been frenetic! The pace of new work remains headlong, set against (this year) a background of rapid change in the English marine development sector and the UK government’s renewed interest in reforming marine historic environment protection legislation.
The English Heritage Maritime Archaeology Team currently comprises four archaeologists, a dedicated marine planner (or marine compliance officer), and an administrative assistant.
Two new historic wreck sites (bringing the total to 42) were designated under The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 this year–a possible 17th-century wreck in West Bay, Devon, and the early submarine Holland V, off Beach Head, Sussex. Archive (material and documentary) assessment and enhancement projects continue in order to bring to publication the work carried out in the past on English Designated Historic Wrecks. In addition, commissions are underway for marine environmental assessments of selected Designated Wreck Sites to help understand the chemical, physical, and biological processes that are governing preservation.
Marine development control: We continue in our role as a statutory advisor to the UK government and its agencies on historic environment issues relating to marine developments. An average of 20 proposals per month come before us, relating to developments situated in all areas of the English marine zone, and ranging from marine aggregate extraction, offshore wind-farm installations, gas pipelines, electric cables, coastal defense, port, and coast edge construction.
The Protocol On The Reporting Of Archaeological Finds by dredging operatives offshore, and on the wharf-side as aggregate is unloaded, has been launched, and we are keen to develop similar procedures for marine industries other than dredging. We have supported the Crown Estate’s updating of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee’s Code of Practice for Seabed Development.
We have passed the halfway point with the Round 2 ALSF, and are on target to disburse £1m this fiscal year and £1m in 2006/7 to fund essential research into the marine historic environment. Projects include:
Strategy and policy, UK Government Review of Heritage Protection: The Department of Culture, Media, & Sport has set up and held the first meeting of two Working Groups (one on Designations and Definitions, and one on Salvage and Reporting) to look at major issues relating to the designation (or legal protection) of marine archaeological sites.