Sunday August 29, 2004

This grain of rice roughly represents the size of the boat to scale against the dramatic East Caicos shoreline; Breezy point is to the upper right.

By Jackie Mulligan

5.45am:Dr Donald Keith picks up the remaining team and all arrive with many bags at 6.05am. Mitch has already assembled the flotilla which includes a Boston whaler attached to the rear of the T&C Explorer. Mitch Rolling and Randel Davis (Randy) will drive the smaller boats.

6.45am: Dr Toni Carrell sets up the office whilst Don is absorbed in list writing

7.30am: Dolphins are spotted racing alongside the ship and playing in the water. Mitch spends his time criss-crossing in the water, relaxed at the helm.

7.56am: The team gather together to throw glass bottles in the water. Not as strange as it sounds as the bottles were a batch from the National Museum’s Message in a Bottle Project. The event is filmed by Windward Media.

8.15am: Dr Anders Seim is handed a manual on how to recharge the Dive Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs). Unfortunately it appears to be in Japanese. Don promises that this will “probably be the first of many surprises.”

8.25am: Toni continues to unload the electronic equipment, computers, printers, cables and soon the cabin lounge looks more like a branch of Radio Shack at every minute.

9.20am:First sighting of Flamingo Hill – disputed highest point of the Turks and Caicos Islands

9.30am Archaeologists huddle together for field notes exchange

9.55am The first sight of Breezy Point brings everyone to the rail of the boat.

Captain Jean-Francois Chabot expertly navigates around the shore line and through the coral strewn, treacherously narrow Jackson cut.

10am: The map is reviewed and compared with the shoreline. Veronica comes up with an excellent plan to use a grain of rice as a symbol of the boat (see top image)–this represents almost exactly the size of the boat against the shoreline.

Mitch pictured at the end of the 5 hour trip in the open boat – very pleased to be on board

12.30pm:Now the boat is stabilized the team enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by Stanley “Junior” Simmons who is originally from Salt Cay and now works as Chief Cook on the T & C Explorer.

1.30pm: Don gives a talk to the team. High on the agenda, the hurricane track. The weather forecast predicts strong winds 135 mph and moving closer on Tuesday and Wednesday. The storm will be watched closely and if necessary the boat will seek safe harbour in Providenciales or South Caicos. Don explains that due to the hurricane there is a plan A – to search and survey staring from Breezy Point including the areas of Black Rock and Thatched Cay. And a plan B which would take the potential storm conditions into account. The team will focus on plan A until more news and more up to date forecasts are available.

During the meeting Veronica Veerkamp reminds the entire team about the importance of Trouvadore for setting a precedent “This is the first time that a slave ship will have been excavated by archaeologists and we hope that it may be the beginning of whole new era in academic enquiry.”

Don sets out two important objectives for the expedition “To avoid accidents and for all 21 of us to leave being friends!” After a full briefing on the survey and search area, Don assures the team that the project will be transparent and accessible to all.

Roles and tasks including Radio, DPV, Underwater writing (Slate/Mylar), boat keeping, record keeping and photo logging are then distributed through a complex process of volunteering and ‘being volunteered’.

After 2pm: T & C Explorer crew and expedition team members start work, testing tow boards, DPVs, GPS Systems.

Tim Ecott goes to shore with Nigel Sadler, Jackie Mulligan with skipper Randel Davis to photograph Jacksonville. The trio explore the ruins of a 19th Century Sisal plantation that lies close to the shoreline.
Whilst struggling through the prickly bushes, Tim is, as he describes: “set upon by a vicious wasp”. No one believes him. Nigel continues to claim that Tim was not stung but merely struck by a tiny twig, Tim continues to claim that he saw “a hovering insect and heard its buzzing wings.” His ear turns bright red and he becomes the first very minor casualty of the expedition. Ignoring Nigel’s comment, Tim brightens up when he finds low-lying walls and the remains of an ancient well.

Don and Jason (pictured at the shore by Jacksonville discover the coordinates are different from the Geo Reference system and decide to take a further two GPS points. The small team return to the skiff and Randy carefully picks a trail through the shallow waters inside the reef to Iguana Cay. More GPS points are taken on Iguana Cay.

Meanwhile the tow boarding proves a great success with Toni Carrell describing the experience as a “bubbly facial”. James Hunter and T & C crew members return happy that the towboards which have been customized to reduce the strain appear to be working.

Final tests on dive equipment take place and some of the team take a plunge into the turquoise water in scuba gear whilst DECR Levardo (pictured noting the dimensions of an anchor off Jacksonville) dips and freedives in the surf and around the vessel.

The team continue working until late in the evening trying to calibrate the computerized geo-referencing system with the GPS coordinates. The coordinates still do not match.

The first survey work will start tomorrow first thing.