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

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Underwater Archaeology at Mt. Vernon

Posted by: Chuck Meide in LAMPosts

GWPotomac.jpg

LAMP is partnering with Mt. Vernon's Archaeology Department to learn more about the maritime heritage of George Washington's home. Washington's estate and business operations were located on the Potomac River, and this is the first underwater archaeology search in the home waters of our nation's Founding Father. Learn more about the project on George Washington's official blog, George Washington Wired . . .

From George Washington Wired:

Mount Vernon is partnering with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), the Institute of Maritime History (IMH), the Maryland Historical Trust (Trust) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) to conduct an archaeological survey of the Potomac River. The boats are using side scan sonar and a magnetometer to map the bottom of the river along Mount Vernon from Little Hunting Creek to the north, to Dogue Creek to the south.

Mt. Vernon's Archaeology Director, Esther White, provides some question and answer time about the project:

GWW: What is side scan sonar? How about a magnetometer?

EW: The first is a sonar system used to map river or sea floors. The sonar detects objects protruding above the bottom. When stitched together these images provide a map of the river bed. By analyzing these maps nautical archaeologists can detect ship wrecks, wharves and other features under the water. A magnetometer measures magnetic fields to detect iron below the water.

GWW: What do they hope to find?

EW: The underwater survey is being done to see what’s there. IMH works to document and map stretches of the river and has chosen to partner with Mount Vernon to learn more about the waters around George Washington’s plantation. Shipwrecks are one thing the survey expects to document.

GWW: Any particular ship?

EW: The Federalist is one ship the crew would love to find. This boat was a gift from the merchants of Baltimore, MD in appreciation of Washington’s work with the Constitutional Convention. It was a fully rigged miniature ship, 15′ long, and was sailed to Mount Vernon by Joshua Barney, a Revolutionary War naval hero, in June 1788. George Washington recorded a hurricane in his diary on July 24, 1788. This severe storm succeeded in “driving the Miniature Ship Federalist from her Moorings, and sinking her.”

Click on the link to read more of the George Washington Wired blog. Also stay tuned to LAMPosts for more updates . . . Our Archaeologist and Logistics Coordinator Brendan Burke is in Mt. Vernon right now, scanning these historic waters with a team of volunteers from the Institute of Maritime History. I've got a promise from an IMH member to do some guest-blogging for us, so we'll be seeing some pictures and hear some stories from this exciting project now underway!

Potomac2.jpg
George Washington's home of Mt. Vernon, as seen from the water. Most plantations of the time were on river systems, as maritime transportation was vital to the success of any such operation.

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