Immigrant Light Keepers

Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook
Located in New Jersey, at the mouth of New York Harbor, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse was visible to immigrants on their way to Ellis Island (courtesy of the Library of Congress).

The connection between lighthouses and immigrants to the United States is inescapable. Dotting the coastline, the bright beacons were often the first sight of land for many people hoping to find opportunity and freedom in a new land. For some of these immigrants, their chance at a new life was closer than they may have thought. The ranks of lighthouse keepers saw a steady increase in foreign-born keepers through the 19th century.

Though subject to peaks and valleys, immigration into the United States steadily increased through the 19th century, peaking in the early 1880s. Immigrants in the second half of the 1800s arrived primarily from Europe, with Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway leading the way. Some immigrants to the United States in the 19th century found jobs doing the same work they did in the maritime industries of their home countries. Many had experience as sailors, fishermen, and harbor pilots. Continue reading

2016 LAMP Field School is in Full Swing!

obstacle course

The 2016 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Field School in Underwater Archaeology is in full swing with a great new group of students!

This is LAMP’s 10th Annual Field School, and is a big year for us, both because of the milestone season, and because we are hosting our largest group of students to date. Over the past two and a half weeks, our 12 students have completed various training exercises around the lighthouse and surrounding area. These include the usual blackout mask obstacle course, used to prepare them for St. Augustine’s low visibility diving….

obstacle course
Traversing the blackout mask obstacle course. Photo by Silvana Kreines

…to training dives in Alexander Springs, where we had the practice basic underwater archaeological methods in clear water, before asking them to perform these same tasks in the aforementioned low visibility. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Sailmaker’s Palm

Photo 3

Our artifact highlight this month is an interesting example of some of our maritime heritage collection.  This object is referred to by several names such as a sailmaker’s palm, sewing palm or sailors palm thimble.  The multiple names are probably a reflection of the diverse audience that would actually use one.

Photo 2

Sailmaker’s palm is associated with the art of sail making.  This tool was important for sewing through tough material like leather and multiple layers of canvas.  This “specialized glove” would protect a person’s hand from the sewing needle.  The sailmaker’s palm would go over your whole hand with a hole for your thumb and a strap across the back of the hand to keep it in place.  Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: What Comes Next?

RV Roper

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

On August 27, 2015, the field work phase of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey came to a successful end. Over the course of the project, 140 hours and 43 minutes of dive time was logged over 161 dives. During this time, 353 probe tests were completed over the 5 most promising magnetic targets, where multiple positive returns were encountered.

Of the five targets, one was dismissed as unlikely to represent a shipwreck due to inconclusive results with the probe, one was dismissed because of the presence of modern material, one was confirmed as a previously identified Iron Box Site,  which had not been witnessed since 1999, and one represents the potentially significant Nine Foot Under Site, although its location under nine to ten feet of sand means it will be some time before archaeologists can investigate this particular site further.

RV Roper

2016: New Discoveries To Be Made

The fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey may yet turn out to be the most significant of them all, and it is this target that we will return to this Friday, July 1st, as we begin our 2016 field season.

Over the past year, we have spent countless hours preparing for the continuation of research at this particular target, preparing the research report for this project, processing more magnetic data, performing seasonal maintenance on our dive equipment and research vessel, and we are finally ready to get back in the water and see what this exciting new target holds.

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum team in 2012 as a student at LAMP’s Underwater Archaeology Field School. She officially joined the lighthouse family as an archaeologist in July, 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho. 

Our first divers splash on Friday, July 1. Be sure to check back towards the end of our field season to see what comes of the fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Until then, we wish you all fair winds and following seas!

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum team in 2012 as a student at LAMP’s Underwater Archaeology Field School. She officially joined the lighthouse family as an archaeologist in July, 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho. 

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Identifying Elektra

Top: Kira Sund; Bottom (L to R): Josh Dotson, Sam Turner, Chuck Meide, Brendan Burke, Starr Cox, and Olivia McDaniel. Even after the slight disappointment of discovering modern debris, rather than a historic wreck, our divers remain optimistic, ready to get back to sea and continue our research.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

The magnetic target known as Elektra was the smallest magnetic target chosen for further investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Archaeologists hoped that the small nature of the target might represent an older vessel, hypothesizing that an older wreck would have less iron remaining due to degradation over time, and would therefore have a smaller magnetic signature than more recent shipwrecks. A series of target testing dives revealed the source of the Elektra target.

Read on to see volunteer diver Kira Sund’s description of identifying Elektra!

Identifying Elektra

By Kira Sund

The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.
The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.

You are diving down on a potential new site; magnetometry readings indicated there was the potential for a shipwreck here, so it is time to set up a sample unit to investigate further. As you get ready to set the screw anchor to establish a fixed point to work from, your hand brushes up against a rough object.

You are momentarily startled; everything else around is sand or shells, so what is this strange item?

Leaning in closer you can see the outline emerge from the cloudy green fog; it looks somewhat like a concretion, the concrete like mixture of artifacts covered by shells and sand. Could it be that there is a shipwreck right on the surface?

This was the question encountered on one of the potential new sites surveyed. Continue reading