Category Archives: Archaeology

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Nine Foot Under Site

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

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).

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Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.
Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.

Ground truthing, or testing previously identified targets, was one of the principal objectives of the 450th field season. The first site to undergo this ground truthing was a target that had originally been identified in 1995 by Southern Oceans Archaeological Research (SOAR) during the first purely research oriented marine magnetometer survey of the St. Augustine area.

The target was re-surveyed by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) in 2009 and designated as Hulk. It was selected for additional work in 2015.

Ground Truthing for Shipwrecks

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.
Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

First ground truthing efforts in 2015 yielded no results for this promising target so it was decided to acquire a new set of magnetic data. This target survey was done on July 15th and once contoured the data yielded a close but different location from which to begin ground truthing operations.

Dive operations began on July 16th, 2015 with a refined placement of the drop buoy by the first dive team. A twenty meter tape was centered on the target running east-west and the team began to test the transect with a hydro-probe, a galvanized steel pipe through which water is pumped at high pressure. Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Going in Blind

The black out mask obstacle course in the pool helps train divers to work calmly in poor visibility environments.

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).

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Once the magnetometer data had been analyzed and the most promising targets chosen for further investigation, it’s time to put divers in the water and see what these targets reveal!

While we often experience a wonderful week or two of decent visibility during our summer field seasons, diving off of St. Augustine is more often than not a dark and murky experience. This, coupled with the nature of scientific diving in general, creates a challenging diving environment for our archaeologists and volunteers.

During the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, we were lucky enough to have those two weeks of decent visibility, but for the rest of the project, our divers were diving in the dark.

One of our newest volunteers, Kira Sund, joined the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) dive team for the first time during the project. Keep reading to see what Kira has to say about diving conditions off of St. Augustine, from the perspective of a brand new scientific diver!

As Kira says, "water so green, you can't always see your hand extended in front of you." The visibility in this image would be considered 'good' compared to many of the days we have spent diving in near darkness.
As Kira says, “water so green, you can’t always see your hand extended in front of you.” The visibility in this image would be considered ‘good’ compared to many of the days we have spent diving in near darkness.

Going in Blind

By Kira Sund

Divers must learn to work around these yellow hookah hoses, lest they tangle themselves in the coils.
Divers must learn to work around these yellow hookah hoses, lest they tangle themselves in the coils.

Diving in St. Augustine can be a bizarre experience to the newcomer. For me, my previous experience in diving had been limited to SCUBA diving in the Red Sea, with beautifully clear waters descending to 60 ft or more.

So it was a bit of a change to back roll off of a dive boat into waters so green you can’t always see your hand extended in front of you; even while diving at 30 ft or less.

Then, there is the use of hookah lines, air hoses that connect you to the boat, providing you with a constant air supply. The advantage of this is longer time on site, but there is the added complication of avoiding tangling the lines or catching the hoses on other equipment.

This all lends to St. Augustine scientific dives being more complicated than diving some of the common recreational sites. Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Measuring the Invisible

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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 Post: Welcome to the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey

Archaeologists use a lot of interesting tools to get the job done.

From spectroscopy, a method of getting an elemental fingerprint from archaeological remains, to phytolith analysis, a way of determining exactly what plants made up a long-lost environment, the archaeologist’s toolkit has become much more technological through the past several decades. In this modern technocracy, the simple trowel and screen form only part of the science.

Likewise, searching for shipwrecks at sea has increasingly relied on technology to go beyond visual survey. So much of the oceans, rivers, bays, lakes, even streams flow with waters too cloudy to see through, or are too deep to access with simple SCUBA technology. Besides, our job is to search for a shipwreck because of its historical value not just because it is in clear, warm water. And so to find these, we break out the gear.

Here we see two thirds of LAMP's remote sensing suite: the side scan sonar (left) and the marine magnetometer (right)
Here we see two thirds of LAMP’s remote sensing suite: the side scan sonar (left) and the marine magnetometer (right)

LAMP uses a fairly typical suite of remote sensing gear. ‘Remote sensing’ means any tool that can recover and record data from an artifact, a feature, or a site. This data may help archaeologists find site locations or simply learn more about a site like where to dig next.

Our remote sensing gear consists of a sidescan sonar, a subbottom profiler, and a marine magnetometer. The magnetometer is the focus here, the real star of the show.

Magnetometery is not something typically associated with shipwreck hunting. However, it is one of the most useful tools. The basic theory rests on the fact that most historic shipwrecks have a magnetic field around them that disturbs the earth’s natural magnetic field. Continue reading

Welcome to the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey!

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450SurveyBanner

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).

The purpose of the 2015 project was to search for and identify historic shipwrecks in Northeast Florida, particularly those dating to the earliest period of St. Augustine’s colonization. An extension of our 2014 Search for the Lost French Fleet project off the Canaveral National Seashore, the 2015 project focused on searching offshore St. Augustine in hopes of finding early Spanish shipwrecks.

This area had been previously surveyed in 1995 and in 2009, and the 2015 research focused on magnetic anomalies that had been identified in these previous surveys. Project fieldwork was carried out over 27 days between 01 July and 27 August 2015. LAMP archaeologists first analyzed the magnetic data from the 2009 survey, contouring 16 magnetic targets. Two of these targets were re-surveyed in the field, to provide a more refined understanding of their magnetic signatures.

After contouring analysis of the original and refinement data, many of these targets were dismissed as likely to represent isolated modern materials. Several anomalies, however, were believed likely to represent shipwreck sites, and were investigated further by divers.

In the midst of the project, archaeologist and maritime historian Brendan Burke posted the first project update in a blog titled The Quest to Find New Shipwrecks. There, he introduced the various field methods used during the project, from remote sensing survey and data analysis, to target testing and initial test excavations, alluding to the initial successes of these activities. And, as some of you may recall, he ended the blog with a statement from an old professor that applies to all archaeologists. When you have questions, ‘you need to dig more.’

And we have!

Over the past year, we have dug into the data, into the sand, into previous research, and into the past. Follow along over the next few days as our archaeologists and volunteers present our experiences and findings from the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey!

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. 

Wreck at Shipping Point

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Earlier this year, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Archaeologist and Maritime Historian Brendan Burke traveled to Virginia to assist in research on a Civil War shipwreck. The following is excerpted from his report on the wreck.

Guns on the Potomac

MapWashington D.C. was never far from action during the American Civil War. Almost immediately after war was declared in 1861, a struggle erupted between U.S. and Confederate forces to control strategic points throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Confederate forces quietly placed heavy artillery along the Virginia banks on the Potomac, strategically placed on commanding heights.

By the fall of 1861, batteries were ready for duty at Shipping Point, Possum Point, Freestone Point, and Cockpit Point. Washington was cut off by water, and the navy from one of its most important naval yards. Confederate guns controlled river line access up and down the river, only on a moonless night could ships pass the blockade.

The reality of strategic isolation and embarrassment spurred the U.S. Navy into action. Assaults were launched against the Confederate batteries In September of 1861 a battery at Freestone Point was engaged by the screw sloop Seminole and gunboat Jacob Bell but without effect.

In January of 1861, a second assault was led by Anacostia and Yankee on Cockpit Point. The action was largely inconclusive and Yankee suffered the only damage when ball passed through her hull and wounded a sailor. By March of 1862 the Potomac Blockade was entering its seventh month. A third operation was launched, again by Anacostia and Yankee, but with the addition of a landing party.

Ships
A lithograph from Harper’s Weekly depicting Confederate batteries at the mouth of Quantico Creek. Ships running the blockade of Washington D.C. are shown under fire. For five months, the nation’s capital was cut off from all waterborne access.

Confederate General Joseph Johnston was, at this time, pulling troops back due to a well-publicized and pending assault on Richmond by U.S. Gen. George McClellan. This withdrawal of forces coincided with the March assault, effectively disarming Confederate batteries along the Potomac. Continue reading