Saturday, July 31, 2010

Field School Summary

Field school summary: By Mark Vadas

The 2010 session was a very exciting summer for the UWF Maritime Archaeology Field School program. The first week was spent training the students to set up and use all of the specialized field equipment. The students also learned search and excavation methods, such as using the dredge and how to perform circle searches.

The first half of field school was spent mostly working on the EPII and B-Street Schooner. The students started dredging out the stern units and worked on the ballast piles. Many interesting artifacts were discovered after the dredging of EPII including a brass pin, a wooden comb, an intact olive jar fragment, as well as a second gudgeon that was uncovered adjacent to the one that had been uncovered the previous year. On the B-Street Schooner, the stern section of the ship revealed pine timbers and other artifacts along with an extensive amount of the hull. Along with these sites in Escambia Bay, some students had the opportunity to go to Mobile Bay to look for lost torpedo doors of the U.S.S. Drum; large sheets of metal were discovered which could possibly be the lost doors of the submarine.

During the second half of field school, only a few days were spent in Pensacola Bay before the worst-case scenario became real and oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill entered the bay and all field school activities were moved to the Blackwater River. At Shield's Point on the river, some of the early twentieth-century shipwrecks were mapped.  After some of the work at these sites was completed, crews moved farther up the river to the Swing Bridge and Center Board Schooner sites near downtown Milton. Measurements were recorded and artifacts were mapped for both of these sites. With these measurements, students were able to get a good site plan for both of the wrecks. On the second to last day of field school, a new wreck was discovered near some heavy machinery that was left along the shore.

Field School provided a tremendous opportunity to survey a large section of the Blackwater River using side scan sonar and the magnetometer. Using these techniques, a sunken barge was discovered right off of the boat ramp that had been used to launch the boats for the survey work. It was an exciting end to a summer of gaining more knowledge and learning new skills that will serve us well as we pursue our careers in archaeology.  In the end, rather than being a backup plan, the Blackwater River turned into a goldmine of archaeological experience. Instead of simply working on a handful of wrecks in the bay, students got an opportunity to work on over a dozen different wrecks which provided a myriad of different construction types and environmental challenges to overcome, but they adapted brilliantly.  Hopefully future students will have an opportunity to return here, and the Blackwater will become as big a part of Field School as EP II, B-Street, and Seminole. 

(Jake Shidner, Peter Sittig, Amanda Dahlberg, Hallie Johnson,  Morgan Wampler, and Mark Vadas on the Blackwater.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Week 10: 19-23 July: The Final Week by Morgan Wampler

Monday marked the final week for 2010’s Maritime Field School program.  Crews continued taking the necessary measurements on the Swing Bridge site as well as the Centerboard site.  On the Swing Bridge site, profiles were taken of the hull for the site plan.  Students also mapped various areas of the vessel.  The Centerboard Schooner crew took the final measurements they needed of the frames and ceiling planking to finish their plan view site plan.  Despite the rough start to this five week period, the final week was a beautiful and everyone proved very productive day in the water.

Along with diving on these two wrecks, one group of students went with Professor Cook and Dr. Bratten to learn about magnetometer survey near the I-10 Bridge on the Blackwater River.  They made several passes but no major anomalies were located.  

On both sites, Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday was spent mapping and measuring in as many points as possible for the site plans.  In an ironic twist though, on Thursday, as one of the crews was returning from their day’s work, they stopped to dive on an area that the survey crew had previously found some machinery on.  As is the apparent field school tradition, they discovered a new wreck on the second to last day in the field!

Friday was spent as a final day to clean up at MSC, as well as allowing some students to take a final tour of the Centerboard site as well as visit the new wreck discovered on Thursday.  They attempted to delineate the site boundaries but were unsuccessful due to the complexity of the site and time limitations. However, much fun was had as they said their final farewells to Blackwater River.  Meanwhile back at MSC, the remaining students finished the site plans from the Centerboard site and the Swing Bridge site.  At the end of the day we all helped clean up MSC and did our final debrief.  We are all grateful for the crew at MSC, the supervisors, and professors for all of their wonderful assistance throughout the field season!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 9: July 12- July 16th: By Allen Wilson and Heather Puhl

This week the maritime field school focused mainly on survey. By now, almost every student has toured and worked on every wreck available. Instead of rotating through the different sites, our teams have been consistently returning to the same wrecks each day. This allows the students to become more familiar and comfortable with the specific wreck they are working on, making work go faster as we gain experience. The archaeological skills we are practicing include taking measurements of important parts of the wreck from an established baseline and learning to translate those measurements into scale drawings of the sites.

Monday: One group went out to what we refer to as the Swing Bridge site because of its proximity to the railroad swing bridge near downtown Milton. The students did some basic orientation and then set out a baseline. They completed a rough sketch of the first two meters of the ship and measured the breadth of the wreck. A second group went to the Centerboard schooner, where they also set up a baseline, and mapped some of the bow, stern, and centerboard itself. The third group went out to the B-Street schooner to test the sub-bottom sonar. We made thirteen full passes at various angles to the wreck, gathering data. The data gathered presented an anomaly at the wreck's location.

Tuesday: With no more sign of oil in the bay, several of us volunteered to return to the B-Street schooner to assist with mapping the areas previously exposed by dredging. We were greeted with warm water, good visibility, plenty of marine life, and most of the starboard side of the bow still exposed. We mapped and measured the exposed timbers. We later used our rough underwater sketches and measurements to draw respectable plan view drawings of the bow. The remaining students and supervisors went to the swing bridge site and centerboard schooner site in the Blackwater River. Baselines were laid on both sites. Teams then used the baselines and an additional tape to measure the locations of various sections of the sites using the baseline and offset of the item being recorded. They also used their measurements and sketches to begin drawing various sections of the wrecks.

Wednesday: Crews returned to both the Centerboard and Swing Bridge sites. On the Swing Bridge, teams mapped the capstan area, although during lunch the capstan fell over, necessitating further drawing and mapping. Different teams worked at mapping different areas of the ship, such as the bow stem, rudder and sternpost on the Centerboard site. A piece of a ceramic plate was found and plotted in also. A third group took the side scan sonar and navigated further up the Blackwater river to search for potential wreck targets to dive on. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction in the computer that kept us from reviewing the data that day, precluding any diving.

Thursday: Today was a busy day for the UWF maritime archaeology crew. Several supervisors went to the barge with the Marine Services Center crew to perform maintenance and some repairs. Two other supervisors accompanied Dr. Bratten while performing remote sensing and introducing a news crew from the Pensacola News Journal to the world of maritime archaeology. The remaining students and supervisors returned to the swing bridge site and centerboard schooner site to continue mapping and measuring the remains of the vessels. With more practice, the teams are becoming more efficient at both mapping and measuring the hulls. The crew on the centerboard even recovered some artifacts that can hopefully be used to determine the age and perhaps the function of the vessel.

Friday: A few students went back out to the Seminole wreck while the rest remained at MSC to learn how to create a full site map to scale from the measurements that we had been taking all week. Several features of both the Swing bridge and Centerboard sites were plotted onto large sheets of graph paper. Next week we will continue to collect data to fill out these site plans.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week 8: July 5 - July 9: By Peter Sittig and Lynn Fobian

July 5-6, 2010
By: Peter Sittig

Tuesday:  With Monday being a holiday for the Fourth of July weekend, it was unfortunate to wake up Tuesday morning with a downpour of rain.  But being well-versed in rain days, the graduate supervisors quickly assembled two mock wrecks at Marine Services for the field school students to practice their DSM (Direct Survey Method) skills.  DSM is a method of recording points on shipwrecks along with the aid of computer software to effectively map out an entire wreck with only limited data points.

Wednesday was a beautiful day filled with three full boats of very happy divers.  Out on the Blackwater River two teams were able to dive on the Palafox and Dinty Moore and get some good practice in with DSM on real wrecks, along with some interesting sunburns!  Our other team was able to set up our side scan sonar equipment and acquire very good data through a significant portion of the riverways close to our dive locations.  Through this they were able to find a historic submerged barge within 50 feet of the boat launch- complete with a modern fiberglass Cobia sitting on top of it!

July 8-9, 2010
By: Lynn Fobian

Thursday was a beautiful day for diving.  The survey team went back to Blackwater to practice the “Direct Survey Method” on the Palafox and to dive on target #8.  The bow of the Palafox is facing the shore in a south-west direction.  Peter and I worked as a team to record the datums on the Palafox, so that we could later plug them into the computer. Direct Survey Method is very tedious work, but it is also a lot of fun.  The supervisors conducted a circle search on target #8, and determined that it might be a debris field from the Geo. T. Locke or Guana Cast. 

Friday morning looked to be a promising day for a dive.  We split up with half of the crew going back to the Blackwater River and the rest of us headed to Seminole, Alabama for a day on an abandoned steamboat from the late 1800s.  After a short tour of the very intact ship we split up into teams to practice Baseline Off-sets.  We broke for lunch and learned some of the history of the wreck.  The day ended too quickly and we headed back to MSC to clean up our equipment and the facilities for the weekend.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 7: June 28 - July 2: By Rebecca Booker and Hallie Johnson

June 28-30, 2010
By: Rebecca Booker

After a rainy weekend Monday was no better. However we did take advantage of the situation in order to learn some very good skills.  The morning started out with a lecture by Greg Cook. He talked about the three different types of remote sensing that is used in maritime archaeology: side scan sonar, magnetometer, and sub-bottom profiler.  In the afternoon we headed back to MSC and we all took a class in O2 certification.

On Tuesday it was another rain day. We headed to Baptist hospital to look at their recompression chambers. There were a lot of interesting stories told about what the chamber has been used for and all the different type of chambers that are out there. After a quick lunch it was off to campus to hear lectures from both Jake Shidner and Sarah Linden.

Wednesday! The first day back in the water since the oil hit last Thursday. We traveled to the Blackwater River. There were two dive teams and one survey team in the Shield's Point area.  The two dive teams dove on three known ships-the Dinty Moore, the Geo. (George) T. Locke, and the Guana Cast. The survey team used side scan sonar to look for any other ships in the general area.  At the end of the day one of the boats had to be towed back to the dock. This gave us a good chance to practice our knots.

(A friendly tow from one of the other field school boat.)

July 1-2, 2010
By: Hallie Johnson

Thursday: Today we looked at the results of Wednesday's side scan sonar survey at Shield's Point in the Blackwater River, as well as the data from a previous survey off Dead Man's Island. Greg Cook gave a lecture on what constitutes a real hit from the sonar and other things in the water, like schools of fish and boat wakes that can create noise in the image. A hard return, which is normally the bright area, with a shadow means there is a definite object. While looking at the data we identified anomalies that might be potential sites to dive on. We were also able to see the side scan images of wreck 6 at Shield's Point and what might possibly be a new wreck. The data from Dead Man's Island was very different form Shield's point because the water was much rougher, which created a different kind of noise than the relatively calm waters at Shield's Point.

(Debrief at the end of the day after our dive operations.)
Friday: The weather held out for us today and we were able to get boats out on the water. We returned to the Blackwater River, diving on some of the potentials from yesterday's lab work. The circle searches did not yield any new wrecks, but there are more targets for further research. Today we also dove on some known wrecks in the area, documenting how much of the vessels were exposed, measuring the dimension of the wrecks and mapping out interesting components of the vessels. The visibility at Shield's Point made this a little difficult, but we were still able get good information.

Your browser may not support display of this image.
(Field school student Capri Wright and Graduate Supervisor Aleks Adams after a dive in the Blackwater River.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week 6 June 21-25, 2010

By Amanda Dahlberg and Eric Bezemek

    This has been an exciting week for the combination field school students.  The students who participated in the first half of maritime rotated to their respective terrestrial field schools, and those of us who have completed the terrestrial portion have traded our shovels and trowels for SCUBA gear.

    Unfortunately, we were not able to spend as much time in the water during our first week as we would have liked to.  The rotation date was pushed back to Tuesday, and we woke to have our hopes of diving dashed by a torrential downpour.  We took advantage of our no-dive day to reacquaint ourselves with the Marine Services Center after being away for five weeks and issue gear to those of us who needed it.

    Finally, on Wednesday the weather permitted diving.  We arrived at MSC a little early in order to get familiarized with the procedures of preparing the boats and loading equipment for the day.  All in all, the preparations went smoothly, and we were on our way in no time.  Our destinations were EPII and the B–St. Schooner, but first the entire group went to the barge located over EPII.   There we learned how to set up the barge for diving operations and conducted the daily safety brief.

    Once the brief was completed a group of us departed for the B–St. Schooner while the rest prepared to go to work on EPII.  Fortunately for us, our terrestrial field school experience allowed us to quickly adapt to performing archaeology underwater, and we took to it without much of a struggle.  Wednesday’s excavations produced several pot sherds from EPII and a fully intact Johnny Walker scotch whiskey bottle from the B–St. Schooner.

    The weather conditions on Thursday could not have been better; clear, blue skies and flat, calm water.  We had a full day of diving scheduled for EPII and the B–St. Schooner, and part of the group conducted target dives with Dr. Bratten.  The diving was going great when the Deep Water Horizon oil leak disaster finally became a cold, hard reality to us.  While travelling just to the south of the dive barge the survey group spotted a sheen of oil dangerously close to the barge.  Diving operations were quickly halted and everyone quickly closed up the barge for the return to shore.

    The impact of the day’s events left us with doubts as to when we would be able to return to EPII and the B–St. Schooner.  Fortunately for us, Dr. Bratten and Mr. Cook have a number of alternative sites located in the Blackwater River for us to dive, and we feel fortunate to have had a chance to visit the wrecks in the bay if we are unable to return to them this summer.   

    Due to the oil disturbance we encountered on Thursday, we were unable to dive in the bay on Friday.  Instead, we went to the conservation lab to process artifacts that had been excavated from the B-St. Schooner site and the EPII site.  We learned the process of filling out paperwork, artifact tags, photographing and conserving all that was found.  Being in the lab also helped us to learn how to identify the different artifacts that are collected off the sites. 

    After we finished processing in the lab, Dr. Bratten came and told us more about the wrecks we will be diving on next week in the Blackwater River.  Everyone is very excited to go see a variety of other shipwrecks located in the river and to continue practicing our archaeology skills in more low-visibility situations!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Week 5 June 14-18, 2010

June 14-15, 2010
By: David Hodo

At the beginning of this week, students and supervisors from the field school conducted dives on the Emanuel Point II shipwreck, the B-Street Schooner, and conducted survey training. On EPII half of the divers worked in the stern section and the other half in the amidships. Students recovered a large piece of an olive jar rim (seen below) in the amidships during the morning along with ballast stones during the afternoon. Four students conducted survey training with Greg Cook using the side scan sonar unit. Several anomalies were found during the training. Unfortunately, the mouse malfunctioned before training was completed and will have to be repaired. Over at B-street six students were involved in dredging operations. The work uncovered a rim sherd from a plate, the base of a medium size bowl or jar and a large number of tacks and nails of assorted sizes.  
(Olive jar rim fragmant from EPII.)

 On Tuesday, the waterways were all closed since President Obama was visiting the beaches so we were not able to dive on our usual wrecks. Instead, we went over to Mobile, AL and visited the Battleship Memorial Park. They had called us previously inquiring if we would be interested in searching for a couple of torpedo doors that had fallen off in the recovery of the USS Drum. They wanted to use as much of the original metal as possible, which is highly commendable seeing as it’s much more work for them to make such an effort.  We all received a tour of the aviation museum and then got to go inside the USS Drum.  We then looked around the outside of the submarine to get an idea of what we’d be looking for in the water. We had two teams of three people diving offshore to look for the doors.  The method we used was a typical circle search with a probe, as well as the use of our underwater metal detector.

On the first dive, we did not find anything pertinent. However, the second dive was a bit more promising. The divers found two long sheets of metal that may be the torpedo doors that we were looking for. We did not pull any of it up, but we did buoy the metal for a future reference point when we had the proper materials to recover them. While the teams were diving, the rest of us were free to check out the other attractions there, which included touring the USS Alabama. This was a very interesting experience, especially since everything has been so well preserved and set up for the public.
Upper picture: Students walk into Mobile Bay to begin metal detecting and circle searches.  
Above: The USS Alabama overlooking our dive site.

Wednesday, ten students and supervisors were assigned dredging work on Emanuel Point II. Shortly after setting up the dredge, a thunderstorm came into the bay from the south. All work was stopped. Equipment was stored on the barge or loaded on the boats for return to the Marine Services Center. On the B-Street Schooner, students and supervisors were dredging in the bow of the ship. After initially setting up the dredge, a thunderstorm arrived, forcing us to tear down the equipment and return to the Marine Services Center.  Students on survey encountered the same fate. Six students and supervisors were assigned training to use side scan sonar and magnetometers to locate new anomalies. The group attended a two-hour class and then took a boat to Pensacola Bay. By the time, they arrived at their survey site, the incoming thunderstorm canceled their training and they were forced to return to the Marine Services Center. After lunch, the entire Maritime Field School students received training and certification on the administration of oxygen for diving accidents at the Marine Services Center.

June 16-18, 2010
By: Robin Hardy

Thursday, the weather forecast was looking stormy and bleak so we decided to have a lab day instead of trying to best Mother Nature.  Our lab day consisted mostly of paperwork; we worked on documenting the artifacts that we had found on our sites and organizing them a little bit for future research needs. We cleaned up the backroom of the lab since there will be a new counter and vent hood being put in soon. We were also able to x-ray some concretions in order to see if there was anything inside of them. One of the gudgeons we x-rayed showed a very clear hole where a fastener would have been used, and what we believe to be a rigging ring was shown as being solid metal so we know now that we can use the electrolysis method on it for conservation and research purposes.

On Friday, students at the wreck of the B Street Schooner initially set up the dredge and started dredging in the bow area. This excavation was a continuation of several days’ prior work. Two 2-person teams excavated and recovered several concretions and two bags of dredge spoil for us to sort through at the end of the day. With dredging we were able to reach the keelson in the bow of the B Street Schooner. Back on EPII ten students excavated units in the amidships and the stern. Prior to this, our units in the stern had to be reset due to the anchoring system of the barge dislodging the units and the baseline. Once we had the units and baseline back in place students excavated and recovered more olive jar sherds in the amidships. Students learning survey today got to use the sub-bottom profiler. They analyzed the area of the Emmanuel Point I shipwreck and a few other areas away from the barge. We also had a journalist and photographer come out and interview our field school for UWF.

Above: A student puts on a mesh bag on the dredge to collect artifacts.

Upon returning to Marine Services, our field school was treated to a wonderful smoked chicken lunch by the MSC personnel. Friends and staff from the Anthropology Department also came and ate lunch with us.  It was a good end for the first session. After Monday next week, the students will switch with the other combine field students and learn about terrestrial archaeology while maritime gets students who just finished the terrestrial half.