A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

July 2011 Archives

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July 18, 2011

Conservation of Cannons from the Storm Wreck

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Check out this great story on the conservation of our cannons from the St. Augustine Record:

Archaeologists believe the cannons sailed on a ship sometime between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and sank along with a ship off the St. Augustine bar, which is located within eyesight of the St. Augustine Beach Pier. Everything else is a secret covered by cemented shells, ceramic pieces, a portion of a plate and a brick that remain embedded in the encrustation.

The cannons will go through extensive treatments over the next two years to remove the encrustation, a combination of iron corrosion product and sea sediment, that will eventually expose the marking that will show the cannons' origins, said Cox.

July 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Cannons

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The first of two cannons successfully raised from the site of a late 18th century shipwreck offshore St. Augustine, at the close of LAMP's archaeological field school in late June.

June 28 was the big day. The culmination of our annual archaeological field school and of a month of diving to excavate the 18th century Storm Wreck. Every day since the first week of June we'd been departing the Lighthouse for an hour trip out the inlet and south, to the location of St. Augustine's relict inlet where so many ships came to grief in the 1700s and 1800s. Throughout the month, we'd been coordinating teams of divers, students working side by side with archaeologists from LAMP, Flinders University in South Australia, and elsewhere, to excavate sand from around ancient artifacts, including six cannon. We decided early on to raise two of these guns, in order to study a more representative sample of the three styles of cannon present on the site. But that decision was ambitious, and raising not one but two cannons is a monumental task.

Continue reading "A Tale of Two Cannons" »

July 7, 2011

African-American Maritime Hero

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMPosts

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One hundred and fifty years ago today, African-American steward William Tillman on the schooner SJ Waring, which had been captured by the infamous Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis, single-handedly retook his ship, becoming one of the first noted black heroes of the Civil War. This story was highlighted in the St. Augustine Record today, and it one of many told in the recently released documentary film The Search for the Jefferson Davis, which follows the research of LAMP archaeologists as they seek out the historical stories and physical remains of this ship, lost off the coast of St. Augustine 150 years ago.

St. Augustine Record:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Union's first black hero of the Civil War wasn't one of the African-American soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, famously depicted in the 1989 film "Glory," but rather a merchant ship's cook who took up arms to prevent being sold into slavery after a Confederate raider captured his vessel.

At least that's the reckoning of some historians and a pair of upstate New York-based documentary producers who have included William Tillman's story in their new film on the short-but-prolific wartime record of the brig Jefferson Davis, a Southern privateer that seized several Union ships in the opening months of the war.

"He certainly ranks among the top half-dozen African-American heroes of the Civil War as far as I'm concerned," said Gerald Henig, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, in the San Francisco Bay area.

The entire article is worth a read, and if you think that's a great story wait until you see the documentary. It is available for sale in the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum gift shop, and its really an excellent show.

UPDATED: Since this original blog posting, another great article on this story came out in the New York Times. Here's an excerpt below, and click the link to the original article, its a good one.

Tillman’s heroic action struck a responsive chord among a Northern population that was reeling from the news of the Union defeat at Bull Run on the same day the Waring arrived in New York. The New-York Tribune wrote, “To this colored man was the nation indebted for the first vindication of its honor on the sea.” Another publication reported that the achievement drew “unstinted praise from all parties, even those who are usually awkward in any other vernacular than derision of the colored man.” At Barnum’s Museum Tillman was the center of an “attractive gaze to daily increasing thousands” and “pictorials vied with each other in portraying his features, and in graphic delineations of the scene on board the brig.” Several months later the federal government awarded Tillman the sum of $6,000 ($154,000 in 2011 dollars) as prize-money for the capture of the schooner.

July 6, 2011

The Mayport-Matanzas Shipwreck Expedition is Underway!

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Just after dawn the morning of 6 July the crew of Cruise 1 loads the Roper for a four day expedition to search for shipwrecks off Jacksonville.

There's no rest for the weary at LAMP! Just three days after wrapping up our annual field school, which focused on the excavation of the late 18th century Storm Wreck (including the raising of two cannons!), we've already switched gears from a local, day-trip excavation to a remote, liveaboard survey operation. During the month of July LAMP's research vessel Roper (on loan from the Institute of Maritime History) will remain out at sea (other than brief visits to shore to re-fuel and switch out crews) conducting almost continuous survey to search for shipwrecks. This entails a much smaller crew (we've gone from often more than 20 on the boat to just 4) and it involves overnight stays on research cruises lasting four days at a time. We have adopted this new methodology to most efficiently survey in areas more remote from our traditional stomping ground of St. Augustine. For the first three cruises we will be conducting sonar and magnetometer survey off the St. Johns River and Fort George Island Inlets (off Mayport and Jacksonville, Florida) some 40 miles north of St. Augustine. Then for the final three cruises we will be targeting the area surrounding the Matanzas Inlet, 16 miles south of St. Augustine, and the traditional "back door" to the nation's oldest port.

The purpose of this expedition is discovery, and we think it is likely that we will discover one or more historic shipwrecks in these two areas.

Continue reading "The Mayport-Matanzas Shipwreck Expedition is Underway!" »

Radio Free LAMP Back on the Air!

Posted by: Chuck Meide in LAMPosts

I know a lot of folks have noticed that our LAMPosts Blog, and indeed the entire Keeper's Blog, have been off the air for some time. I've gotten emails from former field school students wondering where their blog entries where, and phone calls from long-time friends of LAMP wondering why the links to us on Google are all dead. At the same time, lots of folks noticed the new look to our webpage, and were invariably impressed. Not surprisingly, the sudden loss of the blog in cyberspace was related to the new webpage and server switch. Well, the good news is . . . the blog is back baby! We're back online and I've put up a few posts in the last few days. There's lots more to get on there, as we've just finished our field school which climaxed with the raising of two cannons which gained international media attention, and we've already begun our next project, an extended expedition to search for shipwrecks off the coast of Jacksonville to the north of St. Augustine. The bad news is that the server switch has resulted in the temporary loss of a lot of the images that were on the blog, and also the new webpage is not yet up to speed; we're missing lots of information and pictures there. So everyone please be patient with us and know that we are promising more and greater things to come on our webpage and blog! As I write this I am out on the research vessel Roper, armed with a new wireless internet device that (intermittently, at least) to communicate with the outside world (and check the weather radar) while out conducting survey. Stay tuned . . .

Smithsonian Postpones Controversial Treasure Hunting Shipwreck Exhibit

Posted by: Chuck Meide in LAMPosts

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It sent a shockwave through the archaeological community: the venerable Smithsonian Institution was planning a major exhibit on a Tang Dynasty Chinese shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia which had, unfortunately, been salvaged by treasure hunters. Many of the readers of the LAMPosts blog are familiar with the longstanding controversy regarding treasure hunters' destructive techniques of wreck salvage and their standard practice of selling artifacts, both of which lead to a loss of knowledge which could have been gained through archaeological inquiry. Archaeologists follow strict scientific standards, and never sell their collected data, and there is a clear distinction between scientific archaeology and the commercial salvage of shipwrecks by treasure hunters. Treasure hunting is simply considered unethical by professional archaeological standards, as is purchasing or displaying artifacts recovered by treasure hunters. The Belitung Wreck was immediately recognized as one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Asia, due to its wealth of preserved artifacts related to the famed "Maritime Silk Road," and we may never know the extent of the information we have lost due to salvage by treasure hunters. So it is easy to imagine the frustration and anger in the historic preservation and archaeological communities when it was reported that the Smithsonian was going to sponsor a major exhibit, putting their seal of approval on a project that contradicted accepted ethical practices and caused the permanent loss of information that could be gained in no other way. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the archaeologists at LAMP and the St. Augustine Lighthouse were particularly disturbed by the situation.

But a concerted effort by the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA), the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), and many other similar professional organizations, has lead to positive results. The New York Times:

The Smithsonian Institution has indefinitely postponed its plans to mount an exhibition of Chinese artifacts salvaged from a shipwreck because of opposition from archeologists who say the objects were collected by a commercial treasure hunter in a manner that violated professional standards. The exhibition, “Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds,” was tentatively scheduled for next spring at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s Asian art museums.

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July 1, 2011

LAMP partners with FPAN for Heritage Awareness Diver Seminar

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMPosts

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In late May LAMP Director Chuck Meide accompanied FPAN Northeast's Director Sarah Miller and Outreach Coordinator Amber Grafft-Weiss to assist teaching the Heritage Awareness Diver seminar sponsored by the State of Florida, FPAN, and NOAA. The story was picked up by the Historic City News:

In their latest adventure, Sarah and Amber suited up for submerged resources training as part of a Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar aimed at providing dive instructors with all the information, tools, and resources needed to teach heritage awareness as a specialty course.

Accompanying the students was Chuck Meide, a local underwater and maritime archaeologist who currently serves as director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program; the research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

Continue reading "LAMP partners with FPAN for Heritage Awareness Diver Seminar" »