Monday, June 8, 2015

6/8/15 Report - Treasure Coast Salvage Crew Making Finds. Cultural Wreck Site Formation Processes in Maritime Archaeology.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Cannon Ball Found by Bill B. 
On the Salvage Vessel Capitana..
While finds for beach hunters along the Treasure Coast have been meagre, the salvage crews have been doing well.  Captan Jonah and the crew of the Capitana have made some nice finds.  This cannon ball is one of those.  They also just  found an olive jar bottom and musket ball.  They are on the Treasure Trail.

Other Treasure Coast salvage crews are making finds as well.  Maybe I'll have some photos from them soon.

I wonder what most beach hunters would do if they got a signal from a cannon ball like that?  I'd bet most would never dig it.

Thanks to Captain Jonah and the crew of the Capitana for sharing with us.


A couple of weeks ago or so I referred to a couple of academic papers about shipwrecks and old abandoned ships in northwest Florida.  I told you to check the references at the end of such papers.  One of the references that I found in one of those papers was about cultural site formation processes in maritime archaeology.  It was written by M. Gibbs and is found in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (2006).

Here is the link.

This article might not seem very relevant at first to some of you, but if you read it and really think about it, there are some very practical and useful ideas that you will get from it.  If you have some good experience hunting shipwreck items, I think you'll benefit by reading this and mulling it over.

I haven't taken the time to really organize this post well yet.  I've put off posting on this for some time, hoping to get it digested and better organized, but that hasn't really happened yet.  I'm afraid that it would take me a lot more time, so I'm going to go ahead and post a bit of it hoping that you can take it from there for yourselves.

First off, here are some useful terms from that paper.

I don't know how often detectorists think about flotsam. Maybe not enough.  Prior to a wreck items can be jettisoned.  Some will float, including maybe crates or containers containing items that would not float on their own.  Those items might end up hundreds of miles from the wreck site.  They can be jettisoned long before the ship sinks and then float with the currents.

Other items could be tied to a raft or otherwise buoyed with the hope of later recovery.

I suppose it would normally be near impossible to predict where some of those types of things might end up, unlike items that sink more quickly.

Here is an interesting figure from the Gibbs paper.

I won't get into detail on this.  I'm just not prepared to do that yet.  I suggest going to the original article if you want more detail or explanation.

The above figure diagrams several points and processes leading to the eventual observed seabed distribution of a wreck and associated items.

There are what might be called catastrophic wrecks, which occur as a result of a crisis such as a hurricane, for example, and then there are wrecks that are more controlled or intentional, such as running a leaking ship aground.  And then there are abandoned ships such as some of those in Northwest Florida that I mentioned  a couple of weeks ago.

Wrecks are often salvaged at various different times and to different extents.

Here are four types of materials that would be associated with a shipwreck.  They are also listed in a figure in the Gibbs paper.

Cargo and Contents: Non-fixed items not associated with the mechanical operation of the ship and which were meant to be removable, including the ship’s boats and life-rafts. 

Fixtures and Fittings: Minor fixed items, fittings, yards, chains, ropes, anchors and cannon, minor mechanical items and equipment. 

Minor Structural: Items not normally removed, but whose removal would not compromise the integrity of the hull, such as bulkheads, decks, masts, superstructure, major mechanical items and equipment. 

Major Structural: Elements of the ship whose removal would affect the integrity of the vessel, including hull planking, ribs and other structural items.

If you consider the various stages that Gibbs presents in detail, you might have a better understanding of a wreck site.

I was thinking of two important variables that might be simply described as cost, or risk, and value.

The first items to be salvaged would be high value items that are relatively easy to salvage with little risk.

The higher the risk, though, the less would be salvaged.  Deep sea wrecks are little salvaged, while wrecks in shallow water might be extensively salvaged immediately after the wreck.  The Wedge wreck off of Pepper Park is an example of a wreck that was well salvaged relatively soon after the wreck and then picked over years later until little remains.

When the opportunity occurs less valuable and items that are more difficult to salvage are salvaged.  That can occur over a period of centuries as we all know.

Both catastrophic wrecks and abandoned wrecks will progressively deteriorate due to both natural and human causes.

I didn't take the time to put this together well, I just threw few things out there for you.  I just put enough out there to give you some idea if you might want to go ahead and study the original paper for yourself.

As I think about this and get it digested, I'll might expand on this post in the future.

Happy hunting,