WOAM 2010 in Greenville: Extracurriculars

Arrived in the fried-chicken-scented Raleigh airport at 11pm with 100 miles to drive…speed limit is 70 here!  Staying at the dorms on the Eastern Carolina University campus at the crazy good price of $38 per night including breakfast.  I was very lucky to attend this conference thanks to grant funding from the Rasmuson foundation in Alaska (www.ramuson.org).  Personally I really like it when conferences trap attendees at the same location.  From what I can tell, the conference organizers have mainly been Sarah Watkins-Kenney of the North Carolina Dept of Cultural Resources, Emily Williams from Colonial Williamsburg, and Kristiane Straetkvern from the National Museum of Denmark.  Usually, when I come to a conference all the way from Alaska, that seems kind of a long way.  But this conference has more than 80 people from at least 15 different countries, and I am sure the folks coming from Australia had to wake up earlier than I did.  I’ve been told this would be an intimate, open and welcoming group.  I am equal parts thrilled and terrified to be among the people who can actually converse with me about polyethylene glycol.  I hope they will be gentle when I reveal my ignorance, but I am willing to get humiliated a little bit if it would mean getting my facts straight.  There will be some 43 papers and 13 posters in the next four days.  The conference proceedings will be dedicated to Kate Hunter, who passed away in January and is perhaps best known for her masterful work on the Newport Ship project.

 QAR BBQ May 25,2010

Brunswick Stew, Cornbread Sticks, Eastern NC Style BBQ (basted with a vinegar sauce, pepper, a little bit of tomato), coleslaw in a 5-gallon bucket.

 The tour of the QAR was terrific and I could have spent hours there, really.  I am sorry that this is the picture I have for you, it would have been much more spectacular had I been able to get an image of Jim Spriggs dressed up like a pirate, complete with inflatible parrot on his shoulder.

Thursday Evening Dinner Reception

Richard Lawrence gave a talk about the past 40 years of underwater archaeology in North Carolina.  He was the director of Underwater Archaeology for the Department of Cultural Resources for 29 years, and is just about to retire.  North Carolina has some 300 miles of coastline, including features I cannot precisely define like capes, sounds, and shoals and such.  Apparently, Cape Hatteras is a vulnerable point that sticks out into the Atlantic and the northbound Gulf Stream Current goes within 15-20 miles of it, closer than anywhere else in North America.  And that’s also where it meets the Laborador current going south.  Yikes!  There are some 5,000 historical and documented wrecks along the NC coast.  The discovery in 1962 of a civil war blockade runner (the Modern Grace who sunk in 1982) was the first wreck they dealt with, and enthusiasm about the Civil War Centennial helped get the Fort Fisher Preservation Lab built the following year. Leslie Bright, “more of a chef than a chemist”, and armed with Plenderleith did most of the conservation work on the artifacts 1964-1998.  The Underwater Archaeology Law was enacted in 1967 to help put artifacts under state ownership.  For a while there were sport/hobby permits and people were allowed to keep stuff they found if they declared it and it wasn’t deemed especially significant.  In 1972, Gordon Watts became the first underwater archaeologist there.  In 1973, the USS Monitor was found and research on that was ongoing till 1984.  The first national marine sanctuary was established, and NOAA contracted them to manage and do research.  There were UNC field schools from 1974-1979 and ECU field schools 1979-1982.  Gordon Watts and maritime historian Bill Still went on to found the ECU program in 1981, and things moved towards being more program oriented and less project oriented.  Many more wrecks were dealt with, and then there was an interesting tagging program for wrecks, so if they moved around they could still be identified as something that was known.  In the mid 1980’s some 24 very old dugout canoes were found (Middle Woodland Period, more than 4000 years ago) when drought and firefighting activities lowered the water level in Lake Phelps.  This was one of the pre-conference tours for WOAM (I missed it) and apparently it was most enjoyable, even when some conference delegates became a bit, er, waterlogged themselves.  In 1991 the wreck of the USS Huron (from 1877) became the state’s first and only underwater wreck.  The Queen Anne’s Revenge Project (QAR) got going in 1996 and because of the continuing exposure of the wreck, it will be a full recovery.  They are about halfway through, but funding lately has been poor.  The goal is to have everything recovered by 2013, and a museum by 2018, the 300th anniversary.  In September of 2008, the state’s oldest shipwreck was found.  Thought to be from the 1650’s (coin from 1642 and spoons from 1620) it was on the beach and moved around quite a bit before it was hauled further up on shore and there is just no money for it right now.  In hearing all this history, I wondered two things: 1) what info and experience is there in North Carolina that could help with the establishment of a maritime society in Alaska? And 2) there is a name strongly associated with conservation of marine archaeology in North Carolina that is conspicuously absent from the official discussions at the WOAM meeting.

Check out additional posts on the business meeting, specific WOAM personalities, the flavor of WOAM, and Lars Andersen’s advice to me on freeze drying at the AIC’s news blog.

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