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 3, 2011

Answers Coming Quickly

We have four days left on the site, but we have accomplished our main objectives. After exposing both ends of the wreck, we have learned that the bow is pointed up stream and the stern, downstream. This might seem the obvious direction, but when a ship is scuttled one never knows what might happen during the blast. The ship may have been anchored during the explosion and may have turned and sunk--that does not seem to be the case here.

The archaeologists continue to work in three trenches located on the bow, stern, and center.  The trench on the bow is now moving towards the stern in an attempt to better understand the ship and find where the hold may be.  During the excavation of the bow, we uncovered what may be a "cathead" or bumpkin on the port side of the ship. A cathead was a carved wooden beam that jutted out from the bow at a 45 degree angle. This beam would help direct and support the raising and the lowering of the anchor. The term cathead comes from the end of the beam often having a cat or lion head carved onto the end. This piece may also be a bumpkin or other piece of ship rigging.

A piece of ship architecture brought up from bow--the fact that this piece still survives is a great indicator of the ship's preservation.
Dr. Bob Neyland shares his thoughts on this piece of ship architecture lifted from the wreck. Although our goal is not to remove architectural pieces from the ship, any loose or unattached artifacts are recovered and conserved. 

The center unit has come down on solid planking with a round post jutting up. Is this part of a mast or perhaps a post that once mounted a gun?  At this time it is hard to determine, but what we have learned is that the shipwreck is wonderfully preserved and the potential to learn how Barney retrofitted his flotilla for war is great.  Down in the stern area we continue to see disarticulation of timbers and decking. This week we hope to better understand what happened on this end of the wreck as we dig deeper.

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