Underwater News – Spring 2011
Submitted by Toni Carrell <email@example.com>
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA: Maritime heritage archaeologists working with NOA 's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have found the nationally significant wreckage of a famous 1800s Nantucket whaler, Two Brothers, on a reef off French Frigate Shoals, nearly six hundred miles northwest of Honolulu, in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
This is the first discovery of a wrecked whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts, the birthplace of America’s whaling industry. All of America's whalers are now gone, broken up or sunk, except one, the National Historic Landmark Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.
Two Brothers was captained by George Pollard, Jr., whose previous Nantucket whaling vessel, Essex, was rammed and sunk by a whale in the South Pacific, providing the inspiration for Herman Melville's famous Moby–Dick. Pollard gained national notoriety after the Essex sinking, when he and a handful of his crew members resorted to cannibalism in order to survive their prolonged ordeal drifting on the open ocean. The story of Pollard, the Essex, and the Two Brothers was reintroduced to American audiences by Nathaniel Philbrick's New York Times best seller, In the Heart of the Sea (read excerpts here).
Capt. Pollard went to sea again as the Master of Two Brothers and was likely the last person to think "lightning would strike twice," but it did on the night of 11 February 1823, when Two Brothers hit a shallow reef off French Frigate Shoals. Pollard did not want to abandon ship but his crew pleaded with him and they clung to small boats for survival during a long and harrowing night. The next morning they were rescued by the crew of another Nantucket whaler.
For the past 188 years, the wreckage of Two Brothers has lain on the ocean floor. The vessel was part of a fleet of several hundred whaling ships that helped drive America's economic and political expansion into the Pacific, transforming the region, including Hawaii, both economically and culturally, and resulting in the near extinction of many whale species. The whaling fleets also contributed to the exploration of the Indian Ocean and the polar regions.
A 2008 NOAA–led expedition to the northwestern Hawaiian Islands to study marine life, remove floating marine debris, and look for cultural resources turned up the initial clues about the resting place of the Two Brothers. Maritime archaeologists first spotted a large anchor, followed by three trypots (cast–iron pots for melting whale blubber to produce oil), another large anchor, hundreds of bricks, and the remains of the ship's rigging. These artifacts conclusively indicated the wreckage was from a whaler dating to the early 19th century. Subsequent expeditions in 2009 and 2010 resulted in the discovery of more artifacts, including blubber hooks, five whaling harpoon tips, three whaling lances, four cast–iron cooking pots, and ceramics and glass indicating a U.S. origin. This helped confirm the dating of the wreckage. Additional scholarly research provided first–hand accounts from crew members of the Two Brothers, including an approximate location of where the ship grounded, which matched the location of the wreckage."Shipwreck sites like this are important in helping tell the stories of the early days of sailing, including whaling and maritime activities both in the Pacific and around the world," said Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument maritime archaeologist Kelly Gleason, Ph.D., who led the on–site expeditions using the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA: The shipwreck of a mid–20th–century fishing vessel, associated with a distinctive regional fishing technique, has been listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. The Edna G. shipwreck site lies within NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts. The Edna G. was a 54–foot eastern rig dragger launched in 1956 by the Morehead City Shipbuilding Corporation of Morehead City, North Carolina. From its launch until 1974, the Edna G. fished off the North Carolina and Virginia coasts, and in 1974 new owners moved it to New England. The vessel sank on 30 June 1988 off Gloucester, Massachusetts, as her two–man crew set out its trawl net. A strange noise alerted the crew to water rapidly filling Edna G.'s engine room. The fishermen were able to abandon ship and were picked up by another fishing vessel. The exact cause of the sinking was never determined. "Edna G. was listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its exceptional importance as a remarkably intact example of 20th century fishing technology," said Craig MacDonald, superintendent, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. "The shipwreck represents a rapidly disappearing watercraft variety emblematic of the region's maritime traditions."
Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut's Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) documented the shipwreck site in 2003 with a remotely operated vehicle. The fieldwork recorded the vessel's features, including its intact wooden hull, wheelhouse, and trawl winch. NOAA and NURTEC scientists have collaboratively located and documented more than three dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary using side scan sonar and underwater robots. Edna G. is the sanctuary's fifth shipwreck site to be included on the National Register, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service.
Edna G.'s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unafforded in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving or attempting to move, removing, or injuring any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 638 square nautical miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale–watching destination and supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, and marine invertebrates. The sanctuary's location astride historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts' oldest ports also make it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation and industry. For more information visit the sanctuary website at http://stellwagen.noaa.gov.
Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA): INA conducted three projects in the Yukon Territory during the summer of 2010. The largest project–led by Lindsey Thomas–involved a detailed investigation of the A. J. Goddard, a small 1898 iron–hulled stern–wheeler steamboat hauled in pieces over the coastal ranges and assembled at Lake Bennett in the headwaters of the Yukon River, at the onset of the Klondike Gold Rush. The 15.2 m (50 ft.) vessel foundered in a fall storm on Lake Laberge in 1901, with the loss of three lives. The intact wreck was located in shallow water in the summer of 2008. Initial dives and site maps were made in 2009, after which Ms. Thomas and other INA members organized a multidisciplinary investigation of the ship and its artifacts in June 2010. A Blueview Technologies and Oceangate team used a tripod–mounted multibeam sonar (the BV5000) to create a 3D point cloud of the vessel. A valuable aspect of the unit was the amount of detail it could capture in a low–visibility environment, and the ease with which it could be positioned within the hold to record construction details otherwise inaccessible to divers. Additionally, the A. J. Goddard contained personal effects and tools for the operation of a small, northern steamboat. Over 100 artifacts were located and recorded, and many more lie scattered around the hull. Divers recovered 28 artifacts for conservation and display, including tools, boots, clothing, lanterns and navigation lights, the steam whistle, bottles, and a record player and three records.
Two months later, a second INA team–led by John Pollack and Dr. Robyn Woodward–made a 253 km (152 mi.) wilderness trip down the river between Lake Laberge and Carmacks to the north of the A. J. Goddard site. En route they completed an earlier survey of the hulk of the 1908 stern–wheeler steamboat Evelyn at Hootalinqua. A few hours to the north, low river levels had exposed the hull of the 1926 Klondike 1 (Figure 1), 64.1 m (210 ft.) in length. The team capitalized on the situation by conducting a total station survey of the main deck, frames, and longitudinal bulkheads, and inspected half–flooded compartments near the bow and stern. Considerable machinery was found in situ within the hold, including a previously undocumented variant of a rudder–and–tiller system.
The surprise find of the trip was the 1906 wreck of the 1898 Columbian, 44.7 m (147 ft.) in length–the most famous steamboat disaster in the Yukon Territory. INA searches in 2005 and 2008 had turned up some wreckage and narrowed the search area to 1 km (0.6 miles) of river. This general location was confirmed in 2009 with the discovery of an historic river navigation map in the Library of Congress. The 2010 search–this time aided by low water–located the remains of the lower portion of the hull at the head of a side channel. In addition to the lower hull, hog chains, engine beds, and some machinery were observed during an evaluation of the site by snorkel, and an ornate white metal drinking mug was recovered. The Columbian was a large vessel fully loaded with cargo at the time of the disaster, and we expect a substantial number of artifacts to be scattered downstream in the slough. Determination of the precise location of the site was the sole priority for 2010, and a multiday documentation and mapping project will be organized in 2011.
The third and final project of the season involved a six–day hull documentation project at the ships' graveyard at West Dawson, 530 km (330 mi.) to the north of Whitehorse, where seven large stern–wheelers were abandoned in an old shipyard. A four–person team led by Pollack and Woodward prepared a detailed hull plan, including longitudinal and transverse elevations of a 1908 stern–wheeler steamboat, the 43.3 m (142 ft.) Julia B. Twin locomotive–style boilers, two of three original tillers–and–rudders, and one of two high–pressure engines were in situ. The West Dawson site represents the largest intact collection of late–19th–and early–20th–century stern–wheeler steamboats known in North America.
Substantial support for this season came from PROMARE, Spiegel–TV, Blueview Technologies, Oceangate, Texas A&M University NAP, the Yukon Transportation Museum, the Government of Yukon, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and many Canadian and American volunteers.
National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Vice–Directorate of Underwater Archaeology (SAS): The course "Research and Management in Underwater and Maritime Archaeology" was offered from 27 September to 8 October 2010 in the port of Campeche, Mexico. It was organized by UNESCO's Secretariat for the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), through its Vice–Directorate of Underwater Archaeology (SAS).
Twenty Latin American and Caribbean countries were invited by UNESCO to participate. Of these, 14 countries sent a total of 27 participants, who ranged in age from their early 20s to their 50s. There were archaeologists, anthropologists, lawyers, curators, cultural managers, and two architects, as well as undergraduate students in archaeology and conservation.
The main part of the course was given by Dr. Dolores Elkin, National Institute of Anthropology in Argentina, and Chris Underwood, Nautical Archaeology Society (UK). Both lead the Underwater Archaeology Program (PROAS) at the National Institute of Anthropology. A portion of the course was based on NAS Guide to Principles and Practice courses, and complemented with particular projects and experiences from other parts of the world, mainly Mexico and Argentina.
Six Mexican professors taught as well, covering topics such as the development and achievements of Mexican underwater archaeology, specific projects, archive consultation and historical archaeology, archaeobiology, conservation of materials coming from submerged sites, legislation, and the 2001 Convention. Archaeologist Tatiana Villegas, Especialista Adjunto de Programa from UNESCO's Oficina Regional in Cuba, offered a session on the 2001 Convention and participated in the round table at the end of the course.
Thanks to support from INAH's Dirección de Medios de Comunicación, which sent a team of reporters to make three short videos about the course, participants were able to keep their institutions and relatives informed while the course was taking place. These videos can be seen on the Internet via the following links:
One of OLAS's first initiatives was to write a letter asking for UNESCO support for the translation of the NAS Guide to Principles and Practice into Spanish, on behalf of the Spanish–speaking countries of the world.
One vital factor for the success of this course was the warmth of the coordinators and professors, who broke the ice and made participants feel comfortable. At the end of each class, students talked about specific situations in their countries. This feedback was especially important.
Campeche was well chosen as the base locale for the course. The size and beauty of the city and the kindness of its people made our stay a very pleasant one. Underwater archaeologist Helena Barba and her team from SAS/INAH did an incredible job of handling the logistics for the course, making things easier for all in all respects.
This course was very much the result of a joint effort on the part of many people, and a turning point for all of us who participated in it. It demonstrated the importance of human relationships based on respect and solidarity.