Thursday, July 19, 2007

Discoveries at Creque Marine Railway and My Last Post!

Hello, faithful archeology blog readers! This is my last post as a Virgin Islands National Park intern, and it’s going to be a long one. Ken, Susanna and I all fly out within the week—Ken and Susanna for month-long breaks and myself for home in NH. I would like to say that it’s been a wonderful experience to be an intern for the Cultural Resources Management Division of the VINP. I have learned a great deal about the history of the islands, about archeology and cultural resource protection, and about the National Park Service. I was fortunate to be involved in some exciting projects (see previous posts) and fortunate to travel places I would never have seen had I not been working with the Park. I want to thank Ken Wild and the Friends of the VINP for this opportunity and both Ken and Susanna for teaching me so many things. Well, without further adieu, I’ll get to the post, but not before wishing the next intern good luck!

(me looking through a rusted out boiler at Hassel Island)

A couple weeks ago in early July, Ken, Susanna, and I teamed up with Park Ranger Dylan to help him remove an unregistered fish trap from Hawksnest Bay. It is one of the park’s objectives to find and remove any abandoned fish traps within our boundaries because the traps will keep killing fish over and over again. A French grunt was caught inside and so a nearby sailboat lent us a pair of wire cutters to free the fish. Afterwards, Dylan and I snorkeled around Honeymoon Beach looking for evidence of anchor scarring while Susanna and Ken dove. A large vessel with an entirely metal chain had anchored within the park boundaries the week before, and Dylan wanted to investigate the extent of the damage. Susanna took photographs of broken and toppled coral heads in case the offender attempted to dispute the ticket he was given.
The third dive of the day consisted of Ken and Susanna surveying a mooring off Caneel Bay. The Cultural Resources Management division is responsible for completing a certain amount of surveys per year. When the park moorings were put in years ago, no archeological investigations were performed to insure that for example, a shipwreck wasn’t being damaged in the process. Therefore, we are slowly surveying each mooring around the island to look for any indication of cultural deposits. Its actually a perfect random sample approach. I was surface support for this dive; however, I learned I could free dive to 32 feet when I had to retrieve the boat hook I dropped over the side:) All in all, it was a fun and productive day on the water.
In other news, a great stride has been made in the Creque Marine Railway Restoration project. For the past two weeks, Stefferson Marine and Construction has been clearing metal debris out of the Creque Marine slipway.

(Randy and Lalo loading debris onto a platform)

The Cultural Resources Team monitored the work in case any historic artifacts were recovered…and there were! Several bollards were found that would have originally been attached to the sides of the slipway, but must have fallen into the water when sections collapsed. FYI, a bollard is a short, vertical iron post used to tie the lines, i.e. ropes, of a shi (left). An iron wheel about 1.5’ in diameter was also found that would have originally been used as part of the railway to haul ships out of the water for repair (below). Also a porthole from a large ship (below). On Wednesday the 18th, the last day, Lalo found an intact small porthole in beautiful condition (above) .
Now that the slipway is cleared of debris, a barge will be able to land so that materials can be unloaded for structure stabilization and metal artifact conservation. There’s a lot of work to be done to restore Creque Marine Railway for visitation by the public, but I am excited that the entire process has been jump-started and I look forward to seeing it completed someday.
The marine rails were found to be well preserved underwater.

We wanted to let you know there is an article in American Archaeology (on news stands) about the Tainos titled “Before and After Columbus.” It mentions the archeology at Cinnamon Bay and pictures some of the artifacts recovered by the Park Service as well as other interesting sites around the Caribbean. New discoveries are shedding more light on the Tainos’ way of life.

Well, I think I’ve reported all I can. Everyone, wish St. John well in the hurricane season and stay tuned in September for the next post. Thanks for reading!

Amber Davis