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!

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