Friday, November 30, 2007

At last, the Cultural Resource Team has internet access and a day in the office. For the past two weeks, with the exception of Thanksgiving, we’ve been on Hassel Island conducting surface collections in advance of the wave of volunteers scheduled for Dec 8th and monitoring the progress being made by the Seatow crew in the cleanup of the bays. For the first time in decades, there is now a 50ft swath up to the Winch House at Creque Marine. Many people have waved at us from their boats and told us to keep up the good work and this is especially true of the Seatow crew.

We’ve completed the preliminary surveys of Careening Cove, Palm Grove and are almost done with the Creque Marine Shoreline. Each site has yielded significant diagnostic artifacts, as seen above, and everyday our backpacks have been heavy with artifacts that are being brought back to the lab in order to by washed, analyzed, cataloged and preserved. We are all looking forward to the analysis of the hundreds of bottlenecks and bases we’ve collected and after the cataloging is complete, we plan on using some of our finds to create a new type collections of bottles, and perhaps add to existing ceramic type collections.

There were many additional discoveries and investigations, including anchors, chains, pulleys, cars and other tools associated with the careening operation. The team got a good look at an old, iron coaling vessel, a couple of cannons and some bollards. Yet perhaps the most intriguing finds are the gunflints along the northern shore. There must have been a significant shipwreck when Hassel Island was still connected to the mainland, and the ship must have been carrying a cargo of both British and French flint because the shoreline is littered with both flint nodules and finished gunflints. Perhaps our new Danish Interns will decide to study Hassel Island this year, and research the archives in Denmark for evidence of our theory. (More news on the new interns, scheduled to arrive in May, at a later date). The goal of all our work is to prevent the casual removal of these artifacts by individuals not with the park, whether during the trash removal on December 8th, or at a later date when the island receives more visitation.

This past Wednesday we had a special visit from Hassel Island’s first Ranger, Darcy Kulesha, and her husband, Ken. Darcy was working for the park in the early 1980’s when the park first acquired Hassel Island. At that time, the park was interested mongoose control, public relations and trash collection. Darcy said she had to drive from Redhook everyday and take a 15ft Boston whaler into Careening Cove where she would make her rounds. The team really enjoyed hearing her stories and as well, being able to show her progress in the revitalization of Creque Marine.

Lastly, it’s time to say goodbye to the derelict vessel that’s been stranded in front of the old Navy barracks at Careening Cove. The wreck is quite a site and more than a few people will miss the atmosphere it lends to Charlotte Amalie harbor. On the other hand, there are those who feel it an eyesore and certainly, a safety hazard. Seatow’s scheduled to have it gone by next week. Thanks again for reading.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hello readers its Kourtney here an intern from the past that has come back to help with all the new projects in the park. In preparation for the beach cleanup project on Hassel Island, Ken, Susanna, and myself spent the day carrying out the preliminary work. Our work consisted of meeting with the SEATOW cleanup crew to plan how we are going to collaborate on the project. Our team will be responsible for the archaeological monitoring throughout the cleanup and vegetation removal. Additionally, hundreds of volunteers will be donating their time to help clean the Hassel Island beaches. Many of these will be local students.

Due to the numerous historic and two known prehistoric sites on the island, we need to make sure that the archaeological material is not mistaken for litter during the cleanup. In order to prevent disturbance of any cultural material, we will spend the next few weeks carrying out a field reconnaissance and controlled surface collections along the Hassel Island beaches.

Along the shore of Creque Marine Railway was our first find of the day, a copper ladle. We need to research how this artifact was related to the marine railway but of interest, it contained tar within the internal. This was found while meeting with SEATOW but the area has not been systematically surveyed as of yet. We decided to begin the survey along the East shore of the island. We walked along beach looking for surface artifacts, plotted these artifacts using the Trimble Navigation GPS (which can record points as accurate as 30 centimeters, and collected the artifacts accordingly. Along the beach, we found a variety of historic artifacts dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. The most common find was brick but there was also a great deal of fragmented ceramics (ie. annular ware, pearlware, yellow ware, stoneware, and course earthenware), historic glass bottles, ferrous metal (most of which was not collected), and a highly eroded mammal long bone.
As we made our way South along the beach, we began to find prehistoric artifacts. This site had been previously investigated by Ken and his team and he noticed that within the past two years, the site had been looted. There were three small depressions in the most concentrated area of the site that indicated people were digging there, most likely in search of artifacts. Also, two stone alignments had been laid out, creating a pathway that led from the beach to the site. On federal lands the removal of artifacts is very serious and can result in large fines and even prison sentences; they belong to all us.