By Randy Davis
Most wrecks, except those in extremely rocky areas or areas with a lot of wave action, have been covered by sediment of some sort. Before any of the real archeology can begin, this overburden must be removed. Two years ago on this site we had limited time and needed some structures exposed and I was elected and somehow received the moniker “Mongo”. Me Mongo. Mongo move sand. I guess you had to be here.
Mongo (aka Randy Davis) with his double-barreled dredge
When the site is actively being excavated you will see small clouds of sand around every dredge head with one or two pairs of legs and fins extending out of it. The only visible area to the excavators is the area right in front of their mask. Our dredges are basically underwater vacuum cleaners. Water is forced through a hose from a pump at the surface and directed away from the dredge head creating suction and carrying the overburden away from the site. Current is a factor also lest all of the sand will be returned to you if you deposit it up current. The top sand can be removed the fastest as it usually has no cultural remains. As you approach the wreck, however, the consistency of the sediment changes and you slow down and remove the overburden more carefully so as not to vacuum up an artifact.
Once the areas of concern are exposed, drawings, photographs and measuring can begin. Along the way any artifacts uncovered are noted and photographed, labeled, and the area marked before removal to maintain an accurate record of the find. It is clearly evident, in Mongo’s view, that moving sand is the most important aspect of the excavation as nothing can be done until this is completed.