Tag Archives: survey

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Measuring the Invisible

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!

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.