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Saturday, July 23, 2011

ECU Maritime Studies Field Schools 2009

Summer Field School 2009

I was talking to a first year today who had just finished her summer field school (Laurel Seaborn). This year the summer field school was in the good old Cashie River. A muddy river, filled with tannins and snakes. As we talked about the zero visibility and the wreck, I came to reminiscing and shall now share with you all.

Summer Field School 2009

The Cashie River is a dream compared to the PeeDee River where we did our summer field school in Florence, South Carolina. We were investigating shipwrecks and artifacts related to the Mars Bluff Naval Yard. All of our investigation took unexpected turns. The terrestrial excavation turned up prehistoric artifacts rather than historic ones, the river was flooded with dangerous currents rather than being the drowsy, calm, low level river that was expected.

Plotting my next shovel test pit, photo by Chris Amer

Our underwater forays consisted of hugging the shoreline and fighting to keep various instruments in our hands (which were soon nicknamed with the prefix death: death daisies, death right angles, death clipboards and continuing on in morbidity). Luckily we did not have a single injury although we did lose Rob and Bran to the current on separate occasions. Our DSO, Mark, would go through a few stages when this happened-stress, putting on gear at lightening speed, and relief as they reached the bank a few hundred feet downriver. It was an awesome experience to dive with several of my classmates. Laura Kate Schnitzer and I established baseline AB-I loved diving with her. Ben Siegel and I collected all kinds of artifacts. Jessica Smeeks and I attacked dredging with a relish! Thanks dive buddies-you guys are awesome! John Wagner, Nicole and I had some interesting times when we came across what we thought was an active brooke shell!

Laura Kate (left) and I (right) waiting our turn to descend, photo by Chris Amer

Dredging Operation, photo by Chris Amer
I also had the opportunity to work with a number of professionals in the field. I loved working with Chris Amer, Joe Beatty, and Carl Naylor from the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. They had a wealth of knowledge to share with all of us students. It was great to hear them swap yarns and chat with them while waiting to go in the water. Jonathon Leader taught a handful of us how to conduct a resistivity survey. Jonathon Leader was an excellent teacher (and an excellent baker-yum!).

Articles about ECU Summer Field School 2009

http://www.cas.sc.edu/sciaa/mrd/documents/PeeDee_2009.html

http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/newsstory.cfm?ID=1607

http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/civil-war/2009/jun/6/cannon-and-old-naval-yard-found-deep-in-the-pee-de/

http://www.midlandsbiz.com/news/headlines/375/

http://www2.scnow.com/news/2009/mar/11/usc_archaeologists_to_raise_confederate_cannons_fr-ar-368174/

Fall Field School 2009

The fall field school was in the aforementioned Cashie River. One of my favorite days was scouting the far side of the river with the prism for total station shots. LK Schnitzer was my dive buddy for this adventure too! It was so peaceful swimming and wading along the far shore away from the mud and noise of the main site. We had a snake hanging out with us for part of the day which didn't bother me until we could no longer see where it was. It was definitely better when we knew where our "friend" was hanging out.

Laura Kate (right) and I (left) crossing the Cashie, photo by John  Ratcliffe.

I also got to map a portion of the submerged vessel. I recorded from 0-5meters and it was a huge relief to get this experience as we did not have the chance to map a wreck at summer field school. My fellow students and I did get to record a lot of small watercraft in Currituck, but it was great to use some of the underwater archaeology skills we'd acquired during our first year of grad school. Dr. Bradley Rodgers was an excellent teacher for recording submerged vessels, very thorough and we transferred recorded data to a map each day to check for any scale or angle errors.

All in all, I gained a lot of experience in zero visibility diving and recording artifacts (big and small) underwater. Do I wish we'd had a field school out in the ocean? Definitely-I love diving in the ocean and miss Hawaii moana, but I am grateful for the zero visibility and river training. I am doubly grateful for this training because as Maritime Archaeology becomes more important in Cultural Resource Management there is going to be a greater need for Maritime Archaeologists with zero visibility training and experience. I hope you first years had a good time on the Cashie!

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Maritime Culture by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License