Tuesday September 7, 2004

By Jackie Mulligan

6.30am: The early start is mitigated by a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs. The hardened archaeologists in the group continue to be amazed at the luxury they are enjoying on board the Turks and Caicos Explorer. They claim good food, good sleep and comfort are not the usual fare on archaeological surveys.

Today the plan is to continue tow boarding on the west side of Breezy Point and to scubadive to see the large and small anchors that were spotted yesterday as well as the iron mast. Archaeologists refer to this as ‘groundtruthing’ – verifying what appears to have been seen.

Breakfast finished, everyone breaks into activity: preparing GPS lines, taping tracking maps for reference (see picture Jean Francois creating a collage of tracks), checking radios, preparing dive gear, taping mylar boards and the skippers go to check the boats.


7.25am: Mitch slips off the dingy onto Moody Blue and cuts himself on the hatch. His hand slices on the metal. James shouts for assistance and within minutes Emergency Services Physician Dr Randy Davis from the USA and Norway based general physician Dr Anders Seim rush to assist. Dr Randy Davis tends to his hand and puts in 7 stitches. Mitch is impressed that within four minutes he has stitches and painkillers.(see picture)

8.00am:Now down a skipper the teams divide into west tow boarders Skipper Brian with Nigel, Levardo and James go to make more tracks in the whaler. Boston Whaler Moody Blue skipper Graham with Jason, Richard, Anders and Don and the T & C Explorer’s dingy sets off with skipper Noah, Randy, Jen and Julie.

Rain clouds gather, and the islands around the mother ship – South Caicos in the distance, Middle Caicos and East Caicos disappear under a blanket of grey. The sea turns black and the boats are seen trailing tracks of stark white foam inside the reef.

9.30am: Boston whaler returns. Looking down in little light, the mast is no longer visible. Don just below the surface is optimistic but after he has descended 25ft, he realizes that the ‘iron mast’ is dead, twisted coral on limestone (hardpan). The team have returned earlier than planned due to rough seas caused by the several squall lines especially as the anchors and other items were so close to the reef.

10.10am:Randy radios in to the vessel and says that Jennifer Cumming and Julie Davis have seen a wooden shipwreck trapped between two large coral heads. Don reacts to this promising information by saying “Randy if you are kidding me, I will kill you. I repeat, if you are kidding me, I will kill you.”

Meanwhile the tow boarders on the whaler have found no targets. Working just inside the reef is arduous but in archaeology “Finding nothing is as important as finding something.” Nigel Sadler’s reaction when that is said on their return is telling “Of course that is true unless you are the archaeologist finding nothing!” The channel cut is proving its worth, nevertheless in the shallows, the whaler is grounded. James later will describe his thoughts as “sweet irony, after a long career in marine archaeology, I can see myself being shipwrecked whilst looking for a shipwreck.”

All safely return just after 12 noon in time for a delicious lunch.

In the afternoon, the team divide to investigate the sites further and as the storm has now passed, the team take advantage of the improved visibility underwater.

James Hunter and Jason Burns go to measure the wooden shipwreck that has been found. Jennifer Cumming is photographed at the site and around the various targets and notices a range of coral and marine life. Among brain coral, star coral and blade fire coral, she notices Sand Tilefish, French Grunts, Juvenile Wrasse, nurse sharks and eagle rays, peacock flounders and an unusual sighting of fingerprint symphomas.

The tow boarders see nothing on the afternoon and so take photographs of some of the sites that have been seen. On the way back the boat stalls over the reef resulting in an exciting moment for all on board.

All return upbeat. The tracks are quickly covering most of the survey area and everyone is pleased with the results.

Stan creates a magnificent barbecue on the sundeck with his own home made bbq sauce. The team enjoy the feast and Mitch feels happy that in spite of his injury he has not lost his appetite.

8.30pm: The team continue working on the tracks and examine the sketches made of the sites so far. Talk begins as to whether the wooden skeletal remains of the shipwreck could be Trouvadore…