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.

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(Field school student Capri Wright and Graduate Supervisor Aleks Adams after a dive in the Blackwater River.)