July 8, 2008 – Tuesday – The Dreaded Blue Line

By Randy Davis

Like most of the other archaeologists, this is my third expedition in search of the Trouvadore. My role, however, also includes the medical aspects of diving as well as keeping the team healthy in our remote location. This is usually not a big deal, even in an expedition of this size, because everyone is generally healthy and all are professionals who have been doing this type of thing for years. Normally this role includes treating sea sickness or an ear infection, etc. Well, this year we have had an epidemic. The roster of available people is listed on our duty board, except those with a blue underline who are ill. We have three people already down with a stomach virus. Hopefully our epidemic on this very small 125′ boat will be short lived.

The staghorn coral,just a few feet below the surface, presented a real barrier to our tow-board efforts.

Today began our first day of in-water search for the Chippewa and Onkahye, which we will complete prior to returning to the Trouvadore. We have poured over historical documents and feel that we have a good location for their whereabouts, but the magnetometer team has had no promising “hits” near the areas where we feel the wrecks should be. So, today we got visual.

We had two teams that pulled tow boarders behind our inflatable boats over the shallow portion of the reef. A tow boarder is basically shark bait. You hold on to a small board on a ski rope and we pull you around while you look for large objects indicative of a wreck. This works well in the caribbean when visability is upwards of 75 feet. Today started slow, but after I had a very long tow through fire coral and massive staghorn coral forests, we decided it would be safer to go back and swim the shallowest and most promising portion of the reef. Lo and behold – Don found a small ballast pile and some iron fasteners. This was truly a good omen and only the beginning.

This afternoon things only got better. After fighting a strong tidal current, I surfed over the reef and back-tracked to the boat to find that Jack and Joe, two of our boat crew, had found carronades similar to those recorded to be on the Chippewa – five of them. James found another interesting item – a mast ring. I photographed all of these for initial documentation. Tomorrow we will extend our search, while simultaneously documenting exact locations and measurements of all of the finds so far. Time for a Cohiba!
The mast band from the US Brig Chippewa.