After an exciting month of research, diving, snorkeling, data processing, and many excursions, hikes, and site visits, our 2022 summer field programs on St. Eustatius have come to an end. We welcomed two great groups of people to the island, and together we made a lot of new discoveries in its surrounding waters.
This summer’s focus was on exploring the remote and uncharted parts of the waters around St. Eustatius, expedition style. Most of our dives took place far away from shore, in sometimes rough surface conditions with occasionally strong currents. There were no moorings and our ascents and descents were done in the deep blue. Our advanced dive teams stood up to the challenges we threw at them. Not only did they become very comfortable diving in these conditions, they also managed to explore and document a variety of sites and artifacts.
One of our main goals was to refine our knowledge of the roadstead, the area where most ships dropped anchor throughout the colonial period. During several survey dives, we discovered three historic anchors. These were sometimes hard to see due to coral growth. One anchor was even missing most of its shank. These finds provide us with a better understanding of the size and extent of the roadstead, and we now think more ships anchored further south on the roadstead than previously thought.
During snorkel surveys in the shallow waters, we found two new cannon: a small one just offshore from the Lower Town ruins, and a large one among the reefs on the island’s southwestern side. The latter is most likely not an isolated find, as several other metal artifacts were found right next to it. It is likely these finds are part of a wrecked ship, but future investigations will have to confirm this theory.
In addition to exploring unknown areas, we also documented some known sites in more detail. At Lost Anchors and The Hole, several known anchors were recorded in great detail, and metal detecting surveys were conducted around them in order to find out if any metal artifacts associated with the anchors may be present in the surrounding sea floor. Sediment depths were also recorded in order to study erosion and sedimentation processes. It was found that even 80 feet down, large amounts of sediment can be moved around during hurricanes. We decided to recover and conserve a fragile eighteenth-century glass bottle that was laying on the reef, before its potential destruction during the next storm.
At almost all sites, 3D photogrammetric models were made of the archaeological finds in their context. Perhaps our most ambitious project, however, was the 3D modeling of the submerged Lower Town. Many hours were spent snorkeling in the shallows, waiting for the perfect conditions to take over 3,000 photos needed to make a high resolution 3D model of part of this sunken city.
In addition to all the archaeological work, we started another very ambitious project: the decipherment of historic shipping records. Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, officials on the island kept detailed records of tens of thousands of incoming and outgoing vessels, their cargoes, ship names, ship types, and names of their captains. An in-depth study of these records will provide an enormous amount of contextual information to our archaeological findings. This summer, we analyzed all the records for the years 1776 and 1777. We will continue our efforts in the near future in order to first figure out how shipping between St. Eustatius and the North American colonies developed during the Revolutionary War.
All our research results were presented to the people on the island during two Science Cafés at our base at CNSI. Our groups did a great job at disseminating the results to the public. We want to thank everyone who joined us this summer: Dana, Benjamin, Sean, Ben, Anissa, Natasha, Perry, Matea, Alaric, Sam, Dan, Conor, Adrienne, Nikos, Jamie, Bill, Mindy, and Christina. You guys were great, and you are always welcome back on our beautiful island or wherever else were are doing research!