Underwater News - Winter 2006
Reported by Toni Carrell
From 16-20 October 2006 an archaeological team documented ship and aircraft wrecks in high-definition video at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary during a five-day expedition on board the NOAA R/V Shearwater. Expedition team members included Robert Schwemmer from the sanctuary, Channel Islands National Park Service divers Kelly Minas and Ian Williams, Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources diver Patrick Smith, Volume 39: Number 4 Winter 2006 Page 31 and John Brooks, who served as director/ cameraman during the filming of the California Gold Rush side-wheel steamer Winfield Scott (1850-1853), passenger cargo steamer Cuba (1897-1923), and a Grumman AF2W Guardian airplane (1950-1954). The high-definition video will be used in several outreach products that include a Channel Islands sanctuary documentary and a National Maritime Heritage Program documentary featuring maritime heritage resources in several sanctuary regions and shipwreck exhibits at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. During the five-day expedition the dive team also recorded two additional shipwrecks, the 3-masted sailing vessel Aggi (1894-1915) and the fishing vessel Del Rio (1935-1952), as part of the annual shipwreck reconnaissance program. For more information, contact Bob Schwem at Robert.Schwemmer@noaa.gov.
Delaware archaeologists under the direction of Daniel Griffith together with a team from Florida-based Southeastern Archaeological Research (SEARCH Inc.) began research on the remains of the 200-ton 70-foot Severn in October 2006. The Philadelphia-bound merchant ship sailed the mid-Atlantic in 1774 carrying a cargo of international goods- porcelain from China, wine from South Africa, wool blankets from Holland-but on deck a vicious storm battered the merchant ship. Capt. James Hathorne sacrificed his cargo to save his crew, running the vessel aground near Lewes Beach.
Supported by new state grant money, the state archaeologists have resumed their underwater investigation of the sunken ship in hopes of recovering artifacts, clues to a bygone era. "This is the biggest project in underwater archaeology right now," said Jason Burns, project manager for SEARCH Inc., contracted to explore the ship's remains. The ship is in about 15 feet of water in a place where a diver's visibility can range from 6 inches to a foot. "We do all our work by feel," Burns said.
This is the second major shipwreck to be excavated in Delaware. The first was the DeBraak, which sank in 1798. But historians note there are hundreds more awaiting discovery. Philadelphia was an exceptionally busy port, said Daniel Griffith, project director of the Lewes Maritime Archaeology Project, and Delaware's waters were treacherous. The state has applied for the shipwreck to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Severn wreck was discovered accidentally in late 2004 after a dredging project pumped artifact-laden sand away from the site and onto the beach. Beachgoers started finding shards of stoneware, glass, and even metal toys. Archaeologists wondered what exactly was out there. In April 2005, underwater archaeologists located the site, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped funding the research. A Delaware Department of Transportation grant for $300,000 was secured in spring 2006, enabling researchers to get back in the water. Since 2004, archaeologists have amassed more than 45,000 artifacts from the wreck-everything from Dutch pipes to German mineral-water bottles, which reflect the international nature of the vessel's cargo. Two-thirds of the artifacts were turned in by beachcombers. "The history of this ship is like a 500-page book of empty pages," Griffith said, " and each artifact is a word."
State archaeologists and divers are hoping to investigate the ship's galley and the captain's quarters to discover what life was like aboard a British commercial vessel. Griffith said they found a linen smoother, a glass object that resembles a doorknob, which led them to believe the captain might have had a penchant for neatly pressed shirts. State archaeologist Chuck Fithian noted that they are learning about trade during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War as the shipwreck occurred only a couple of months after the Boston Tea Party. Researchers said that it is not surprising that there are far more goods from Germany, Holland, China, and South Africa than there are from England. "We're seeing a slice of that trans-Atlantic commerce," Fithian noted. Griffith said the varied contents on the ship would be comparable to a combination of typical items found today at Wal-Mart and Home Depot. While the research team is nearly certain that the boat is the Severn, nothing bearing the ship's name or the captain's name has been discovered to date. The identification as Severn is based on a comparison of dates on the artifacts with dates in old newspaper reports of missing ships. The team hopes to find something engraved with the captain's name when they search his quarters. Dredging damaged about 20 percent of the site, Griffith said. After excavations, an estimated 60 percent is expected to remain. Some items are presently on display at the Zwaanendael Museum.
At a news conference held at the Lake George Visitor Center on 2 November 2006, Mayor Robert Blais (Village of Lake George, New York) heralded the recent announcement by New York State Governor George E. Pataki of a grant in the amount of $67,847.00, awarded to the Village from the State's Environmental Protection Fund, as an essential building block in the region's efforts to identify, protect, and preserve underwater cultural resources dating back to the prehistoric and pre-Revolutionary War eras. The grant funds will be used to purchase a Klein 3000 side scan sonar for use by Bateaux Below, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that conducts underwater archaeological studies of shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources in the 32-mile-long Lake George. The New York State Department of State's Division of Coastal Resources administers Environmental Protection Fund Grants. All grants are awarded on a 50-50 matching basis. "Lake George itself serves as a critical repository of some of the State's most important historical and cultural resources," Mayor Blais said. "Dozens of sunken, historically-significant vessels as well as numerous other submerged geological features exist beneath the surface of Lake George. Some of these resources are sensitive to disturbances because of their historic, archaeological, or cultural significance and need to be protected and preserved. Others offer excellent opportunities for recreational diving."
Joseph W. Zarzynski, an underwater archaeologist and Executive Director of Bateaux Below, Inc. said, "The acquisition of a Klein 3000 side scan sonar will greatly expand our ability to locate and identify the lake's many shipwrecks and other submerged heritage resources. Then and only then will we be able to work effectively with State and local cultural resource managers to develop realistic and cost-effective strategies to interpret and help preserve these underwater resources. Furthermore, our hope is that this shall lead not only to the development of more shipwreck preserves for scuba diver visitation, but also to the creation of professional exhibits, shoreside signage, informative Web sites, and compelling and dynamic video productions that interpret the State's submerged heritage for the diving and non-diving communities."
Lake George was the first waterway in New York State to open shipwreck preserves for recreational diving, when in 1993 a partnership of local and state agencies and not-for-profit corporations created the New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with assistance from Bateaux Below, Inc. administers this State Park, which has three shipwreck preserve sites. Furthermore, the acquisition of a side scan sonar helps in the development of a statewide Underwater Blueway Trail initiative that will provide increased access for scuba divers to select shipwrecks, improve the protection of submerged cultural resources, and promote tourism, educational, recreational, and economic opportunities for waterfront communities in the Empire State. The New York State Underwater Blueway Trail initiative is being coordinated by Mr. David Decker, P.E. who serves as the local Interim Underwater Blueway Trail Project Manager.
Archaeologists recently discovered a 1-inch-high brass rooster that likely served as a decorative top. Such finials adorned a wide variety of items in the 18th century, so it could have broken off of a weapon or even a personal box. Divers found the cockerel in the same excavation unit of the shipwreck as an apothecary weight, so it may somehow be associated with measuring scales, possibly an ornament on the box where weights were kept. The fixture features little eyes, a beak, and a rooster tail, and is made of cast brass. The absence of maker's marks or other identifying information makes drawing any symbolic conclusions difficult because roosters had different meanings in different parts of the world in the 18th century. In Germany, for instance, there were many cockerels on the tops of churches. QAR archaeologists will need to research decorative arts of the period to find out more, said Dave Moore, nautical archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum.
The QAR staff is also researching the marks on the apothecary weight to see what they mean, Moore said. The weight is marked with a Roman numeral "XVII" on top, an Arabic numeral "8" on the left, a "1/2" on the bottom, and a visible "R" on the right, which Moore said can be seen as "Rx" under a microscope. The weight was found in the same general area of the shipwreck where other surgical instruments were found in earlier dives. The Queen Anne's Revenge, the pirate Blackbeard's flagship, ran aground in Beaufort Inlet in June 1718. Just weeks earlier Blackbeard had attacked Charleston, SC, capturing gold and other valuables and demanding medical supplies. Among other items recovered from the shipwreck in October 2006 were unidentifiable concretions, lead shot, gold dust, and ceramic pieces. One of the ceramic shards was not lead-glazed like the other pieces archaeologists have been finding for years. It was part of an oil or olive jar and, though it is the first of its kind found at this site, olive jars of this type were commonly used containers.
The QAR Project will likely wait until spring to retrieve several additional cannons from the ship due to scheduling conflicts with the lifting vessel. Additionally, archaeologists have determined that the ship sternpost needs to come up at the same time, and the archaeology lab is still in the process of preparing the tank that will be used to store and conserve the object. In the past, QAR archaeologists have used Cape Fear Community College's research vessel Martech or the Division of Marine Fisheries landing craft West Bay to pull up some of the smaller cannons, which weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds, while the Cape Fear Community College research vessel Dan Moore is generally needed for the larger cannons. The cannons to be raised are sixpounders that can weigh between 2,000 to 2,500 pounds. QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing said the sternpost measures 7 x 5 feet and is estimated to weigh 2,600 pounds. The divers need a boat that not only has that lifting capacity but has stability at sea. At the onset of the six-week field season that began 2 October 2006 the QAR project announced plans to recover as many as four cannons.
A team of divers from NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the University of Connecticut, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, and NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations successfully removed a trawl net entangled in the windlass of the historic schooner Paul Palmer in September 2006. The Paul Palmer shipwreck lies in less than 130 feet of water in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts coast. The Paul Palmer was a five-masted coal schooner that became a "Hoodoo" ship after it caught fire and sank off Cape Cod, MA. The schooner began its last voyage on Friday the 13th, 1913.
After two days of in-water training on net disentanglement safety, the dive team overcame poor surface and underwater conditions caused by passing hurricane Florence to remove approximately 300 pounds of derelict fishing gear. By cutting away the fishing gear, the team removed a potential entanglement threat to divers and marine life, while protecting the integrity of this historic resource. The project platform was NOAA's new research vessel AUK, based out of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2687.htm).
The project was funded by NOAA's Marine Debris Program (http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/), and ushered in this year's International Coastal Cleanup. See the following Web page for more information and project images: http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/news/palmernet.html.
On 7 September 2006 Paraguay deposited with the Director-General its instrument of ratification. Two weeks later, on 21 September 2006, Portugal deposited its instrument of ratification. In accordance with the terms of its Article 27, the Convention will enter into force three months after 20 instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession have been deposited. To date, 10 instruments, including that of Portugal, have been deposited.