In 2010 and 2011, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), the US Navy, and Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) conducted archaeology surveys in the Patuxent River on a War of 1812 shipwreck. This blog documents our underwater archaeology surveys.

August 4, 2010

Planks and Nails

A view of the metal shoring going into our unit today.

The underwater archaeology is slow going. The second shoring set up finally came in yesterday morning and a specially made dredge head from California arrived on my front steps. Today we will be placing the shoring into our excavated holes which will really help to keep the sediment back so we can see what we are doing and get a better view of the wreck below. We also have an underwater camera so will be able to record our findings and display the images to the crew on board the barge. Our media day is today, and I have posted the press release belowalong with photos.

JB about to enter the water (L). Susan giving a tour of the site to local folks (R).
Bob giving us the signal that he is okay (Bottom).

MD State Highway Administration's Press Release

Beneath the waters made murky by recent heavy rains, archaeologists are uncovering remnants of the dramatic events preceding the bloody four-hour Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812. Archaeologists from the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), the US Navy (USN) and Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) are surveying for a War of 1812 shipwreck in the shallows of the Patuxent River upstream from Pig Point (now Bristol), near Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County.

With high-tech equipment, archaeologists are mapping an underwater area thought to be the resting place of the USS Scorpion or other War of 1812 vessel that was deliberately sank or "scuttled" to prevent British capture and use against American forces. First the teams used a magnetometer, an instrument that detects metal objects such as cannons and anchors, to locate the general area of the wreck. Archaeologists then used a more precision-based piece of equipment called a hydroprobe, which pinpoints the wreck location using a linear series of one inch diameter jets of water to further delineate the site. Underwater archaeologists are now excavating two, six ft by ten ft test units in an attempt to identify what part of the shipwreck they are on. Over the next two years, scientists will continue their testing of the site to help direct the placement of a coffer dam in 2012. The cofferdam, a temporary watertight enclosure, will allow the archaeologists to excavate the wreck as a dry site. The information gleaned from the excavation will be incorporated into the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and Byway as America commemorates the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. These findings will further supplement Maryland's extensive contributions to the international celebration, estimated to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Maryland and generate more than $1 billion in tourism spending over the 32-month bicentennial period.

The search for the USS Scorpion project is partially funded through the Transportation Enhancement Program, which funds non-traditional, community-based transportation-related projects. The Governor determines which projects qualify for funding based on need and potential benefit to the public. The Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration oversees the federal program, which has awarded more than $185 million for 232 projects in Maryland since the TEP program began in 1991.

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