Yesterday marked the beginning of our fieldwork season for 2012. Our goals for this summer are to locate the site and create accurate site maps tied in to a known geo-spatial coordinate system, and to make a thorough assessment of the site. For those of you just joining us, this project is based on a site in the St. Mary’s River, adjacent to the St. Mary’s City town center, which past work has suggested to be the remains of a trade vessel from the seventeenth century. If so, this will be the oldest British ship remains known in the region. The site is known as a ballast distribution, of which preliminary testing has suggested European origins. We hope to obtain a sample of this ballast for further testing. The site sits against what is believed to be the seventeenth-century shoreline. Historic map regression shows that as late as 1850 this was indeed the shoreline. Based on the data we currently have, we are operating under the assumption that the site represents an ocean-going trading vessel from the seventeenth century, which was likely faulty or beyond its usable life and then abandoned against the shoreline. If this is the case, anything of any value, including iron fittings, would have almost certainly been stripped of the ship. While this perhaps for some makes it less interesting, from an archaeological perspective it perhaps makes it more interesting. Any artifacts we find in association will be quite literally, the trash from the ship. Many shipwreck sites are seen as a sort of time capsule, showing an array of goods both for use on this vessel and for trade. Abandonments will show what was not valued, telling us a new side of the story.
To start, Kevin Norris, a surveyor with Lorenzi, Dodds, & Gunnill, Inc. came to set our datum points along the beach. Using RTK and a robotic total station, we were finally able to set two points near the site off of which we can base all of our measurements. Many thanks to him for all of his hard work after normal working hours last evening.
Today has been spent doing preparatory logistic work, getting ready for dive operations to begin on Sunday. I took many pictures and began stockpiling video footage as well in hopes that in the coming days I will have a video blog to post.
And to end, I would like to thank many of the people who have made this possible and contributed to this project in a significant way. Dr. Regina Fadden, director of the Historic St. Mary’s City museum, has been crucial in obtaining funding for this project, as well as providing accommodation for those venturing to St. Mary’s City for the project. Dr. Henry Miller, Director of Research at HSMC has worked with me very extensively in developing my research plan and providing support wherever he can. David Howe & co. of the Institute for Maritime History has provided amazingly useful support by loaning me both his time, equipment, and volunteers to ensure that we have what we need to preform the fieldwork to the highest standard possible. Terry Brock, a graduate student at Michigan State as well as close personal friend, has been very instrumental in helping me publicize this research in a meaningful way that has generated a fair amount of interest from both other archaeologists as well as public. Lastly, Dr. Susan Langley and Troy Novak from the Maryland Historical Trust’s Maryland Maritime Archaeological Program provided me with invaluable assistance in developing a fieldwork plan. Many thanks to all of you, as well as to the individuals volunteering their time on this site to help us learn about Maryland’s colonial maritime past.