Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996 Page: 14
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By J. Barto Arnold III and Sara Keyes
Texas is amazingly rich in marine
archaeological sites, with almost 2,000
shipwrecks in its waters. However, relatively
few of them have been physically
investigated at all, let alone properly excavated.
This is due in large part to the complicated
nature and enormous expense of
underwater work. In addition to the logistical
difficulties of excavating submerged sites,
artifact cleaning and conservation is complex
and costly. As a result, the Texas Historical
Commission had concentrated for
several years on archival research and re
mote sensing. Recently, however, Texas
marine archaeology has been moving back
into the field.
One way the THC has found to actually
explore more submerged sites in detail
is through work with the Southwest Underwater
Archaeological Society, an organization
of recreational divers founded in
1992 by George Roseberry of Lampasas.
Membership in the SUAS gives experienced
divers with an interest in archaeology
the opportunity to work as volunteers
on joint projects with the THC. This part
A marine archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission examines the exposed remains of unknown
Trinity River wreck below Lake Livingston Dam, near old town of Swartout. Photo by Layne Hedrick.
nership is an excellent example of positive
public/private sector interaction: it allows
recreational divers to investigate historic
wrecks under professional supervision while
helping to provide important preliminary
data on these sites. Members pay their own
way and provide their own equipment,
making the project cost-effective for the
state. Also, prospective volunteers must
complete a workshop covering basic techniques
such as navigation, artifact identification
and sketching in zero-visibility,
baseline laying and triangulation, and proper
mapping and recording methods.
The first SUAS project was the mapping
of a sidewheel steamboat wreck in the
pitch-black water of Caney Creek, near
Sargent, Texas (41MG32). Beginning in
March 1993, teams have made nine trips to
the site, with more than 60 people contributing
in excess of 3,000 volunteer hours.
Primary goals for these field weekends have
been to map the exposed remains of the
ship and to search for scattered wreckage in
the area. The wooden hull is largely intact,
and many features of its complicated machinery
(engines and boilers) are still in
place. Based on dimensions (120' 6" x 22',
6" x 4'), which correspond closely to measurements
taken by divers, the wreck may
be the Troy, built in 1852 in Brownsville,
Pennsylvania. She was enrolled at Saluria
in 1854 and started making the Caney
Creek run in December 1860. Mapping of
the site will continue, particularly as part of
training for new SUAS members.
Also continuing is the THC/SUAS Port
14 HERITAGE *WINTER 1996
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996, periodical, Winter 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45404/m1/14/: accessed December 15, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.