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Posts Tagged ‘Underwater Archaeology Branch’

Raising a cask hoop concretion

Raising a cask hoop concretion

After the weekend, we returned to site with the focus of separating the individual elements that make up the pile. A large anchor, A2, lies atop 8 cannon. With such a large concentration of iron, the cannon and anchor have concreted together to form one massive concretion – too large to recover all together. To recover artifacts from the pile we need to separate them. We began this work this week. We first tried using an old fashioned hammer and chisel, but it quickly became apparent that the immense concretion was too thick to attack with man-power alone.  A pneumatic chisel attached to an air compressor on the deck of R/V Jones Bay proved to speed up the process, and we made some headway.  The pneumatic chisel has made it much easier to map and remove cannon balls and ballast stones as we come upon them lodged deep within the concretion.

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

We also managed to raise two large cask hoop concretions and another concretion of unidentified artifacts, along with an assortment of small objects and get them all transported back to the lab.  Another very productive week for the team, considering we only worked three days because of Labor Day and one bad weather day!  The seas flattened out entirely on Thursday, and by Friday, the visibility climbed to 15 feet. All the divers marveled at the rare opportunity to be able to see the entire wreck site upon descent.

Our team grew this week with the addition of ECU graduate student Nicole Wittig. We are excited to have her on board for the remainder of the fall season!

Week 5 was September 3-6.

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By Kimberly Kenyon, QAR Conservator 

Some of the highlights from the second part of August include the discovery of a previously-unknown cannon under a large concretion and the raising and transport of several large concretions. Here’s an overview:

Week 3: August 19-23

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion.

Divers surfaced on Monday with the exciting news of a previously unknown cannon lying within the immense concretion that makes up the pile. This new cannon, which is estimated to be a two-pounder based on its size, brings the cannon grand total to 28! This cannon is also the eigth located in this particular pile. Our numbers seem to be edging closer and closer to the 40 cannon purportedly on the QAR at the time of grounding. Will we find all 40? We certainly hope so!

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay.

Tuesday, we were able to raise two large concretions using the davit (think of a small crane, like one used to raise and lower lifeboats off the sides of ships). One contained two lead sounding weights and a deadeye strop;  the other  had two massive deadeye strops. It’s always exciting to find pieces of the ship’s rigging!

Wednesday, we moved the dredges to units 244, 245, 247 and 248, where cannon C-26 and C-27 were found. After removing the sandbags and overburden, the smaller dredges were employed so that sediment could then be collected in the sluices on deck.  Unfortunately, the winds turned again, so we spent Thursday and Friday on shore. At least it allowed time for Kim, Jeremy, and Greg to count and weigh all the ballast stones raised so far and put them in storage. It cleared up some much needed space on the dock at Fort Macon.

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding weights visible (bottom)

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding
weights visible (bottom).

The visibility has been improving, and with all this close-up time with the pile, we have been spotting a certain curious octopus lurking. Julep has even gotten some video of him. Unfortunately, he is going to have to be evicted from his home on the pile so we can get to work!

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Week 4: August 26-30

Brick fragment.

Brick fragment.

Various small finds are finally coming to light during the fourth week of work on site. Greg identified a brick fragment just underneath cannon C-7 in unit 246, and he also very carefully lifted and recovered a fragment o12f pine sacrificial hull planking in unit 270!  We hope this is a good indicator of what may still be buried in nearby units.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

We have been lucky this week in observing a number of local wildlife species. Kim spotted a sting ray just west of anchor A2, Julep managed to get some more video footage of the octopus still lurking around the pile, Danny was very excited by a dolphin escort one morning while we were headed out, and flounder are beginning to appear around the site.

Morning dolphin escort.

Morning dolphin escort.

Finally, a large batch of artifacts raised over the course of the previous three weeks was delivered to the QAR lab in Greenville on Friday.  Since so many of the concretions were oversized and too heavy for us to physically load them onto our trailer, we made use once again of the U.S. Coast Guard’s team of crane operators to assist us. Two cask hoop concretions, the lead sounding weight concretion, a deadeye strop concretion and a nail concretion were all loaded quickly and efficiently, and all the boxes of smaller finds were loaded up and transported to the lab.

We lost Greg and Jeremy with the end of the week – they were a tremendous help on site and will be sorely missed!

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Stay tuned! We’ll be bringing you updates from September’s field work soon.

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Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

The opening of a field season is always busy, and this year proved to be no exception. In our first two weeks of work, the team focused mostly on setup, laying out gridlines and placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units. We recovered some artifacts, too. Here’s a brief overview:

Danny preparing to drill

Danny preparing to drill

Week 1: August 5-9

The opening week of the 2013 field season saw the team gathering supplies and readying R/V Jones Bay for diving. Once divers were in the water, they started laying gridlines over the pile and labeling new units nearby (246, 255-271).  The grid system not only aids the archaeologists in meticulously mapping in each artifact on the site plan, but the numbered squares also help divers to figure out where they are on those particularly low-visibility days.  Another new feature for this season is a set of white buoys attached to the ring of Anchor 2 (A2).  It’s yet another assurance of relative location when you descend into the murky water.  It’s nice to know where you are!

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Billy Ray, Chris, Nathan and Julep all came up from Fort Fisher and were joined by Dave from Maritime Museum and Shanna from the QAR lab. Our four technicians, Laurel, Danny, B.J. and Matt were aided in their work by interns Greg, Jeremy and Jeneva. Although the weather was a bit overcast, the team managed to get four diving days on site and accomplished much!

Week 2: August 12-16

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

The team ushered in the second week by placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units we intend to excavate in 2013.  Also, as part of an ongoing corrosion study, Danny and BJ located the artifacts anchor A2, cannon C-6, C-7, and C-8, which had all been outfitted with sacrificial zinc anodes.  They drilled through the concretion to expose bare metal, and using an electrode, they measured each artifact’s pH and corrosion potential, the figures for which will hopefully reflect that the anodes are performing as they should be in slowing down active corrosion.  The electrodes’ cables were connected to meters being monitored by conservators, Shanna and I, on the deck of the Jones Bay.

Even though we lost two days to bad weather, I used that time to my advantage, instructing a couple of our fearless interns. Jeremy and Jeneva, on how to process dredge spoil and seek out the small artifacts that are commonly found hiding in the sediment. Upon returning to site on Thursday, divers began removing ballast stones concreted to the pile, with the hopes that we can understand how to go about separating the large artifacts from each other. On Friday, we raised two cannon, C-26 and C-27, both two-pounders which had only been located in the previous field season. They were delivered to the lab and are currently keeping each other company in the same tank. We also had to say our goodbyes to one of our interns, Jeneva.  She was such a great part of the team, and we will all miss her!

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be delivered to the QAR lab

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be
delivered to the QAR lab

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Behind-the-scenes at last week’s live stream event

Nearly 12,000 school children from across North Carolina and the country eagerly anticipated the chance to ask their questions about Blackbeard and his flagship last Friday as Sec. Susan Kluttz introduced the live stream program. Sec. Kluttz was introducing archaeologists, conservators and historians that work on the recovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge project to students who were participating in the first installment of “Cultural Resources TV,” the department’s live streaming video initiative.

During the next 45 minutes, Sec. Kluttz joined elementary, middle and high school students as they asked the experts questions about underwater archaeology techniques and equipment, artifact conservation and Blackbeard through live chat, email and streaming video. Project staff discussed the shipwreck site itself, how they got to it, how they protect and conserve it and what we know about Blackbeard and his crew. The program, which was broadcast from the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort and hosted by Maritime Museum staff, ended with gunfire from a pirate re-enactor, officially kicking off the 2013 spring dive season.

Overall, the program reached 493 classrooms and groups from 196 schools and public libraries across the country. Those schools and libraries represent 51 counties and 4 states outside North Carolina.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be bringing you answers to some of the questions the experts didn’t get to, some stories of the program’s impact and updates on this season’s recovery efforts. Check back on this blog for more, but in the meantime, check out the video above and some behind-the-scenes photos here.

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From left to right, state Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., Cultural Sec. Susan Kluttz, state Sen Thom Goolsby and state Rep. Susi Hamilton stand with the new highway marker

From left to right, state Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., Cultural Sec. Susan Kluttz, state Sen Thom Goolsby and state Rep. Susi Hamilton at the unveiling of the new Modern Greece highway marker

The New Year started off with a bang as a crowd of more than 5,000 people turned out at Fort Fisher State Historic Site in Kure Beach Saturday for the 148th anniversary of the Civil War battle that took place there.

The battle was instrumental in ending the war as it resulted in the closing of Wilmington’s port, which was then called “the Lifeline of the Confederacy” because of its role in supplying the Confederate army.  It was prominently featured in Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln.

The day’s activities included re-enactors talking with visitors about camp life during the January 1865 campaign, infantry and artillery units conducting drills and firing demonstrations and speakers on an array of Civil War-related topics.

The day also included the dedication of a new historical highway marker for the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece. Research on the Modern Greece led the State of North Carolina to establish one of the nation’s first underwater archaeology programs—now part of the Department of Cultural Resources—and eventually resulted in the recovery of thousands of artifacts.

Click here for pictures of the event and here to learn more about the Battle of Fort Fisher.

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This post is by Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Lab Director and the Underwater Archaeology Branch’s Chief Conservator.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory (QAR Lab) is primarily tasked with the examination, conservation, documentation, and study of artifacts recovered from the shipwreck NCDCR314; Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, which sank in 1718. The QAR Lab has been located at East Carolina University (ECU) since 2003.  Established under a Memorandum of Agreement between NCDCR and ECU its operation is a partnership to “…promote their mutual goals of archaeological and historical research on this important site and the era in North Carolina and world history that it represents.” ECU provides facility services, student graduate assistants, and consultation with faculty, while NCDCR is responsible for management of the shipwreck site and direction of the QAR Lab. There is also close collaboration with the N.C. Maritime Museum (NCMM) in Beaufort, which, as the final repository for treated artifacts, is responsible for their long-term care and interpretation to the public.

ECU’s West Research Campus (ECU-WRC) is an excellent location for the QAR Lab with good ground level access to buildings for large vehicles and artifacts and space with the potential for development and expansion of conservation as well as research and education activities. The QAR Lab includes: a wet/dirty small objects lab; clean-work lab; larger wet/dirty lab; photographic studio; x-radiography system; office and documentation room. Also, one of the large warehouses on the site is equipped for the storage and treatment of large objects (cannon, ships timbers) and electrolytic reduction treatment of metal finds.

QAR artifact related operations range from in-situ monitoring and preservation, to recovery (including inventory, field storage and transportation of artifacts), and conservation (stable storage, examination and analysis, cleaning, stabilization, data management, and study of artifacts), through to transfer to the North Carolina Maritime Museums  repository and display.  The Lab is staffed by three permanent NCDCR staff:  QAR Lab Director/Chief Conservator; QAR Conservator/Lab Manager; and QAR Conservator. In addition, depending on annual budgets there are one to three temporary conservation positions, as well as two to six graduate assistants, and volunteers.

As a working conservation lab linked to a major on-going archaeological project, the QAR Lab provides a unique resource for artifact studies as well as for research opportunities and education in conserving artifacts from a marine environment for students and researchers at ECU and for a wider community of archaeologists, museum staff, and other professionals.  Work undertaken by the lab is guided by professional codes of practice as defined by the American Institute for Conservation. The QAR Lab disseminates information on work done through publications and presentations at seminars and conferences and the project’s website.

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