Friday, March 23, 2007

March 22, 2007

Hello, everyone. It is getting hotter in the islands as summer approaches, but the Cultural Resources Team here at Virgin Islands National Park is finding ourselves outside in the field more often than in the air-conditioned office. Today, we made big strides concerning the Hassel Island Restoration Project. Two conservators from Texas A&M University, Peter Fix and graduate student Drew, flew in on the seaplane from Puerto Rico at 9 a.m. to assess the metal artifacts associated with the historic Creque Marine Railway. Ken, Susanna, and I lead them around the site and they were excited (and probably a little overwhelmed) to see the abundance of historic marine artifacts in desperate need of stabilization. For example, the rails of the railway are still intact as well as the gears, the fly wheel, and the boilers of the steam engine that would have hoisted the large ships up out of the water to be worked on. A beautiful, old dive bell is located near the engine house that would have been used to work on the ships while still in the water. Remember, Creque is the oldest steam-powered marine railway in the Western hemisphere and it is the only one surviving in the world.I am positive the public would love to visit and learn about this significant site and I can only imagine what Hassel Island will look like once vegetation removal, artifact conservation, and building stabilization has been completed. The conservation plans generated from today’s trip serve as a first step in this process, and hopefully the next steps will be soon forthcoming.
In other news, excavations at Cinnamon Bay have also had some progress. We have finally made it through the culturally sterile sand and have uncovered the first prehistoric/ historic surface. The contrasting colors of the two layers is one reason why we believe we have reached culturally significant sediment—the sterile sand is white whereas the sediment is dark brown and compacted into a very hard, discernible surface. Tomorrow, we will start to excavate the surface and who knows what we will find!

This week, Peter Burgess was once again a great help. We have been trying to identify more of the Jochumsdal historic plantation site this month. Chuck Pishko had informed us there was a grave, but we had yet to locate it. Peter found the grave and more. He deduced that the crypt is in the center of the plantations's animal mill. Thanks Peter for sending us the information needed to go right to the site and complete the documentation process.
I hope everyone is staying warm up north and I’ll see you next week.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hello everybody:) I am covered with sand at the moment. Field work will do that to you. Today we here at Virgin Islands Cultural Resources Management have opened up Unit 11, the pit in which we will be reburying the human remains washed up at Cinnamon Bay. Our 1X2 m grid is set, the sterile sand has been removed, and we are in the process of excavating Level 1. Many visitors have had positive things to say after learning about the purpose of the excavation, and those are always nice to hear.
In other news, the artifacts in Unit 10 are almost fully catalogued (Unit 10 was the excavation of the greathouse kitchen floor). Susanna has been hard at work cataloguing as well as greeting the multitude of visitors we have had in the lab. Kourtney is continuing to identify human skeletal remains and separate those from animal remains. Her work is very important to the Cinnamon Bay reburial project, and we are lucky to have her expertise on the subject.
Ken recently did a presentation for a group of philanthropists associated with the Trust for Public Land. The group then visited our lab at Cinnamon Bay to learn more about our current archaeological projects. They saw the excavtion of Unit 11, and Ken also told them about our plans for the museum.

I hope everyone is staying warm in the colder climates up north and I will catch up with you all next week:) Bye!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Folk Life Festival

(Quadrille Dancers)

Hello, everyone! And welcome to the Virgin Islands National Park Cultural Resources Team blog spot. This week we have been in the Cinnamon Bay lab every day, and it’s been great—talking to the public, finishing some much-needed cataloguing of artifacts, and of course, taking a swim at day’s end to conduct survey work. The Annaberg Folk Life Festival took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 27 and 28th at the Annaberg sugar mill ruins. Susanna and I visited on Tuesday and we had an opportunity to meet local craftsmen like the basket weaver Mr. Dell and Ital, who carves local coconuts. We also tasted home-baked bread with butter and cheese—YUMMY! It is a local tradition to offer the bread and cheese as a greeting whenever a guest enters your home. Quadrille dancers both young and old performed as well as several musicians. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and left hoping that more events like this would happen soon.
(Mr. Dell, Master Basketmaker)

(1988 Tradewinds Newspaper about Folk Life Festival)

(Local Crafts)
This Wednesday, Kourtney Donohue arrived on St. John. Kourtney is an ex-intern and recently graduated with a Master’s in osteoarchaeology from the University College, Cork in Ireland. She agreed to help us out down here with our collection of human remains recovered from Cinnamon Bay. She will be differentiating between human and animal remains in preparation for burial and she will identify the specific human bones we have on hand. We are all excited to have Kourtney here sharing her expertise on this subject.
Last Friday Ken, Susanna, the acting superintendent, Catherine Light and our chief ranger went over to Hassel Island. They met up with the island’s Delegate to Congress and the St. Thomas Historical Trust to review and discuss the preservation of the island’s rich maritime history. That night, Ken gave a boat tour for the Friends to help raise funds for the museum at Cinnamon, and on Saturday finished with a five-hour tour on Low Key Watersport’s dive boat that raised about $1400 for new interns.
Until next time, everyone and thanks for keeping up!

(Ken Wild and Delegate Christenson talking over plans for Hassel Island)