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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 4

June 7-8, 2010
By: Jesse Hamilton 

              The week began with a great amount of uncertainty.  The growing threat of hazardous oil from the Deep Water Horizon disaster potentially moving into Pensacola Bay prompted the team to schedule a series of target dives around the bay and Santa Rosa sound in conjunction with the daily excavations of the Emanuel Point II site and the B-Street Schooner project.  The purpose of these target dives were to locate and photographically document to the best of our abilities some of the previously discovered wreck sites scattered across the bay.  The present condition of these sites were somewhat unknown and it was necessary to produce a better visual record of the wrecks.  In the event damage is incurred to these sites from the looming oil situation, the photos taken would be useful tools in determining the pre-oil state of these sites.
              On Monday the first target dives were preformed on the Santa Rosa Island wreck located about a mile east of Fort Pickens.  The wreck site was found and photos were taken of some exposed timbers and ballast, as well as landscaping cloth which remained from previous excavations.  A heavy current was noted in this area.  From here the dive team moved north to attempt to locate the wreck of the Hamilton.  After an unsuccessful search of a shallow area just east of Pensacola Naval Air Station the site was determined to be covered by sediments.  
(Puffer fish in ballast on Rosario.)
               On Tuesday, a second set of targets were investigated, beginning with the wreck of the Rhoda.  This ship is situated a few miles east of the Santa Rosa Island wreck and it was located and photographed.  The ship had clearly exposed hull timbers with protruding metal stanchions, along with two separate ballast piles from a previous salvage attempt years ago.  After collecting photographs of that site the team moved a bit further east and closer to shore to attempt to find the wreck of the Sport.  Unfortunately the GPS coordinates led to a location on the beach and after a shallow water search this site too, like the Hamilton a day before, was determined to be buried and unreachable.  Overall, the target dives were successful in their intended goals and good visual evidence now exists of two more Pensacola Bay shipwrecks. 

              The Emanuel Point II excavations were executed with a greater urgency placed on accomplishing specific goals for the site.  One of the primary objectives was to excavate the stern unit of 82N 500E well enough that an accurate map of the unit could be produced.  After maps were made the hope was to have the main features of the unit, one whole gudgeon and part of another that led into an adjacent unit, fully exposed and capable of being removed from the units, possibly by the end of the week.  Dredging operations were pushed into high gear with the addition of two new PVC dredge heads engineered by Professor Cook and little time was wasted in clearing away the overburden on these two days.  Work was also preformed in the amidships area where some possible hull planking was exposed and bits of pottery were collected. 

              B-Street Schooner excavations also became a high priority for the group.  On both days teams were allocated to the site to perform dredging operations focused on the stern section of the vessel.  A large portion of the interior of the ship was uncovered during dredging which further exposed large yellow pine timbers as well as hull planking, iron spikes, and a large coil of still unexplainable concreted rope-like material.  Numerous artifacts were hand collected from this site.  Also the site proved that the technique of using sandbags to prevent underwater sediment shifting is effective.  One notable drawback to the work at the B-Street site became the powerful odor of petrochemicals like diesel fuel in the sediments of the wreck.  Although most likely not of any great danger, these smells made working conditions unpleasant at times.  This week may prove to be one of the last weeks where all of the active sites are accessible and the team continues to work at full speed to document and preserve as much as possible within the precious little time left in the water. 
June 9-11, 2010
By: Christopher Dewey

           On Wednesday, we continued work on EP II, opening another excavation unit to the south of the other stern units to uncover the remainder of the gudgeon that was located last year.  Gudgeons are mounted on the sternpost of a vessel and work with pintles attached to the rudder to provide an articulated joint that allows the rudder to move from side to side to steer the ship.  Gudgeons and pintles work much like the hinge of a door.  After dredging the new unit, the divers were surprised to find a second gudgeon stretching across the southern wall.  The new gudgeon was significantly smaller than the first and was completely contained within the excavation unit.  Continued excavation loosened the new gudgeon to the point where it could be recovered, and also revealed a large wooden plank measuring 30 cm wide and 7 cm thick.  The crew at the B Street Schooner recovered a plank with saw marks and uncovered the remainder of the stern.  The target diving team discovered a shrimp boat boom and cable.  

         On Thursday, we dredged in the amidships excavation unit on EP II and recovered lead sheathing, fish bones, and some brick material.  The stern unit team completed the mapping of the two gudgeons and continued dredging in preparation for the retrieval of both gudgeons on Friday.  Robin Hardy and Danny Haddock recovered a large iron-concreted, ring-shaped artifact, which was discovered outside the hull during last week’s metal detector scan.  Dr. Bratten identified the object as a ringbolt used to secure lines to a deck or bulkhead.  The B-Street Schooner crew continued to document the ship’s stern area using mosaic photography and hand drawings.  One team of divers located the B-Street Barge; another wreck approximately 70 m north of the schooner.  Seven team members conducted familiarization dives, and practiced survey techniques on the Seminole Wreck in Alabama.

            Oil in the bay, oh my!  On Friday, oil from the BP oil spill was reported in Pensacola Bay the day before, but the reports had the oil receding with the outgoing tide.  The decision was made to scrub Friday’s planned dives and do only what was necessary in light of the oil intrusion into the bay.   One team was sent to EP II and recovered both gudgeons, and a second team went to the B-Street Schooner to complete documentation of the stern.  No one knew how long the bay would remain open so the dive teams had to work quickly.  The divers prepared their slates and briefed the dive in the van on the way to the boat ramp and geared up on the boat ride out to the site.  The first B-Street diver splashed shortly after the anchor was set and the dive flag was raised.  Thankfully, the oil stayed away and the team conducted an extensive survey of the stern.  The EP II team recovered both gudgeons without difficulty, and they are both resting comfortably in the UWF conservation lab.
(Field school student Jesse Hamilton with one of the gudgeons.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Week 3

May 31-June 2, 2010
By: Benjamin Garrett 

            Tuesday half of our group went to EPII and half went to Seminole.  At EPII the group dove on the target that was identified last Friday as a possible wreck site. Divers identified it as a modern vessel based on the roundness of the timbers and the whiteness of the oyster shell. Once this determination was made, the target was abandoned and the group headed to another target for investigation. D. Haddock and J. Grinnan completed a circle search but did not find anything of interest. A plan was made to hit another target however, this plan was abandoned on account of the weather and the day was ended early.  

            At Seminole there is a 19th century steamboat that was sunk and moved to its resting spot at the outside of a riverbend.  It is resting at a 45 degree angle.  The remains of a paddlewheel are sticking out of the water.  Divers went into the water to investigate the wreck.  First, we had an overview of the wreck and then they started taking measurement of individual pieces such as the paddlewheel.  Some of the divers got to see the nameplate and boilers excess steam container as well as other parts of the boat.  Then it started to rain bringing the day to an end and they went to make drawings of what was measured.

            Wednesday the field school attended a presentation.  We learned how the presenter studied coastal anthropology and sort of combined terrestrial and maritime anthropology.  The presenter studied emergency centers that were placed every so many miles along the coast that would help sailors whose boats had wrecked.  These were built a long time ago before the Coast Guard and they saved many sailors lives.  Then after the presentation we worked in the lab bagging and tagging all the artifacts we have uncovered so far.  There were things like bones, pottery, rocks, lead sheathing, concretions, and other things.  We took measurements of the artifacts, weighed them, put them in fresh water, and drew them.

June 3, 2010-June 4,2010
By: Stephanie Poole

             Unfortunately, the uncooperative Florida weather prevented the UWF field school from spending the day on the water. However, all was not lost, as we piled into the archaeology vans and headed to Pensacola Naval Air Station for a behind the scenes tour of the Naval Aviation Museum. We were greeted by Captain Ed Ellis an incredibly knowledgeable guide. At each exhibit, he informed us of its significance and historical background. Our tour began in the restoration department of the museum. Here we were able get an up-close view of some of the planes that are being restored for future display. These planes included the Coronado as well as a Hell Cat recovered from Lake Michigan. The tour continued outside where we encountered such planes as the first plane to land at the South Pole, the plane George Bush landed on the Abraham Lincoln, the plane with the longest flight time without refueling (58 hours), and of course, we cannot forget the famous Blue Angels’ jets.

              Inside of the museum, we encountered the first American plane to fly across the Atlantic, an incredibly detailed model of the aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, and a multitude of planes from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. In addition to aircraft, the museum also contained a section devoted to the U.S. Navy’s involvement in space travel.  This fascinating day of discovery was topped off by a ride in the Blue Angels flight simulator. Overall, this was an awesome way to spend a rainy day in Pensacola, Florida.

               After a week of rough weather and very limited time on the water, we were finally able to resume our excavations in the bay. Half of the field school went to the barge to work on the Emanuel Point II site where excavations in the amidships unit continued and metal detector surveys were performed. The remaining half of the field school headed to begin excavations on the B-Street Schooner.

                It was a bit of a rocky start for the B-Street team. Not only were the clouds rolling in and the wind picking up when we arrived at the boat launch but a rogue wing nut found its way into the tire of our boat trailer rapidly deflating it. It seemed that all was against us but as the day wore on, the sun came out, the bay calmed down, and our luck changed. We began to excavate the stern of the wreck uncovering hull structure, and collecting wood samples, treenails, concretions, nails, and clay. A large iron object was uncovered, however the use of this object has yet to be determined.

               Not only were we excited to get back in the water but the fish were excited to see us coming. The sheepshead gathered around us to say hello and inspect our work. The day proved to be very successful resulting in a map of the stern portion of the vessel, and the beginning of a nice collection of artifacts.

                 It should also be mournfully noted that today the oil made its first appearance on the Pensacola beaches.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Maritime Field School Week 2

May 24 - May 26
By:  Joe Grinnan

               Monday was a very eventful day. On the B-Street Schooner wreck site divers completed an orientation dive, becoming familiar with the site and its layout. They also replaced the measuring tape on the baseline, securing it in regular intervals with zip ties. In addition, students filled 20 sandbags with sterile sand found offsite in preparation for future unit dredging. Teams also practiced baseline offsets and mapped out the stern of the vessel.

               The teams working on the Emanuel Point II shipwreck also accomplished much on Monday. In the amidships unit (97N 491E), divers dredged about 25 centimeters of sediment from the overburden and ballast strata, ending the day at a depth of 45cm. They recovered numerous objects from the dredge spoil including faunal remains and lead sheathing. Divers working in the stern unit (83N 501E) excavated about 30 centimeters of sediment, ending the day at a depth of approximately 60 cm. The dredge spoil was full of artifacts including faunal remains, flora remains such as a nutshell, a single piece of earthenware ceramics, a brass straight pin, and even a wooden comb!
(Wooden comb and brass straight pin.)
               Tuesday turned out to be an interesting day. We prepared for the day just as we had done on Monday, but on our arrival to the barge there were approximately 2’ seas in the bay with a stiff breeze blowing out of the southeast. The waves unfortunately inhibited our work on the water and the excavations were cancelled. The students instead took a fieldtrip to the T.T. Wentworth museum to look at the artifacts excavated from the Emanuel Point I shipwreck. We also looked at the other exhibits in the museum including colonial era British and Spanish artifacts and objects from Mr. Wentworth’s travels. The field trip was very interesting and informative.

               Wednesday was a very beautiful day and we were able to accomplish a significant amount of work. The visibility on site was the best it has been all summer about 3 meters. One of the dredge heads developed a dime-sized hole in the induction nozzle and thus was left useless, however we were able to dredge in the stern unit (83N 501E). In the dredge spoil from this unit we were able to identify some faunal remains and resin. During excavation a single piece of lead sheathing was piece plotted and some hemp was collected. Although no dredging was completed in the amidships unit (97N 491E), the visibility permitted drawing of a detailed map of the exposed timbers and pieces of lead sheathing. Two of the pieces of lead sheathing were piece plotted and collected.

                On the B-Street Schooner divers completed an orientation dive, becoming familiar with the site and its layout. The teams practiced baseline offsets by mapping the remaining sections of the map left by the divers from Monday, focusing on the bow section. During the dive orientation divers observed metal tacks in the bow, but they were left in place, they also observed a glass bottle near the bow, which was also left in place.
May 27-28, 2010
By:  Brett Briggs

                During the second week of maritime field school, the students really started to demonstrate how well we had adjusted to our daily routines in the field. Daily preparations on the project barge have become very time efficient and smoothly executed. We have all had the opportunity to use the dredge on the Emanuel Point II site and have adjusted to poor visibility underwater. After a nice relaxing day at T. T. Wentworth Museum on Wednesday, due to bad weather, we began our first target dive rotations.

           Target dives are the second phase of remote sensing by sidescan sonar or magnetometer. When an anomaly is detected by either instrument, its GPS coordinates are recorded for further investigation. After interpreting the remote sensing data, divers may be sent into the water to determine the anomaly’s identity. Using a technique called circle searching, divers can systematically do a search of the area where the anomaly was detected. This is accomplished by dropping an anchor with a buoy attached to it on the estimated location of the anomaly. Divers can then descend the buoy anchor line through near zero visibility until they reach the bottom. Beginning on the bottom at the buoy anchor, one diver holds a role of measuring tape while another diver swims away from the buoy anchor with the end of the measuring tape and a probe in his hands. The diver with the probe begins swimming a circle pattern while probing the sand for objects. Using a communication system based on measuring tape tugs, the diver probing the sand can notify the diver at the buoy anchor that he has found something or needs more slack. The diver on the buoy anchor will, in turn, notify the circling diver when he has completed a circle and can widen the search by releasing more measuring tape. If something important is located, the diver on the buoy anchor can simply bring the buoy anchor with him by following the measuring tape to the new discovery and place it next to it for further investigation.
            On Thursday, one group of students performed target dives around Pensacola Bay, while another group carried out dredging operations on a unit in the amidships of EPII. Matt Gifford, David Hodo, and I were the first dive team in the water at EPII and were responsible for setting up the dredge for the day. Unfortunately, very low visibility made communication slower and more difficult than usual between us as we made our preparations. After making our beginning measurements of the excavation unit below baseline, we began setting up the dredge. After that was complete, we gave the signal to start the dredge. However, we soon realized that the dredge was not getting suction and bad visibility made it difficult to communicate this fact to my supervisor. As soon as communication was established, I was able to swim off along the exhaust hose to identify the problem, which turned out to be a kinked hose. As soon as I corrected the problem and made my way to the dredge head to begin dredging, it was time to end the dive. Sometimes bad conditions can really slow operations down.

              Friday, on the other hand, proved to be a very productive day for me. While one group remained at EPII to continue dredging on the amidships unit and metal detecting on the stern for possibly and anchor or rudder hardware, my group performed target dives. I would say that target dives may not be for everyone due to their super low visibility conditions I experienced and the relentless fear of the unknown lurking just outside of sight. However, I had been looking forward to this all week and I loved it. I am excited to report that I even found something on my very first circle search. Besides recovering two lost probes on the bottom of the bay today, I found some potentially very old wooden beams ranging from 4” to as much as almost 3’ below the sand. It was very spongy to the touch and felt riddled with teredo worm holes. I would say that the wood beam found under the 4” of sand was about 10” wide and seemed quite long, although it was hard to identify the extent of it due to bad visibility. Solid objects were detected by probe deep in the sand as much as 3 meters away from the beams closest to the bottom surface and probably goes further out, although that is as far away as we test probed. I am very excited about this find and I hope it turns out to be something important after we perform some further investigations of this site next week.*

*Editor’s note: Unfortunately, this target turned out to be modern material. The search continues for potential sites, however!