JULY 8, 2008 – Tuesday – The Canonization of Jack Crowe & Joe Lamontagne

“We are not here to make history we are here to prove that it happened” –Disco Dave

By Jack Crowe

I guess we would probably start with the diving that I have done and the places I have dived I thought I had seen it all, or most of it or the things that mattered anyway. I have done plenty of wreck diving in Papua New Guinea and always appreciated a wreck for what it was, but never really gave much thought to what it was before it became a wreck and how many lives it affected. I hadn’t realized what goes into recording the history of the wreck let alone the carry-on effect through many peoples lives, not only the people that were on the boat involved in the incident, but the people left behind.

When I first heard that I was going to be lucky enough to be a “scientific researcher” on the TCEXII, with a bunch of archaeological scientists and filmmakers I was pretty excited and didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for.

From the first day the whole thing took on a new perspective, seeing it from experienced eyes and hearing their stories changed my perspective on what this was about and the possibilities of what we may or may not find.

Our first day of snorkelling and tow-boarding was supposed to be laying the ground work and setting up perimeters and tracks, and seeing what we could see.

Jack Crowe with a carronade from the US Brig Chippewea

The information the group had, and also from an informant, led us to believe that the shipwreck would be in a certain area and it was up to us to try and pin point where it could have been and find out if there was anything there. The Mag Men (two crazy guys with a magnetometer which picks up different signals of iron and other stuff) had done some perimeter work in this area, and the inner reef was left to us to explore.

The group leader Don, put us into groups, gave us the low-down and cut us loose. After a beautiful breakfast and a morning briefing we loaded the gear into an inflatable boat and headed to the site. With the sun in our eyes and facing a low tide we donned our snorkel gear and picked our way through coral bommies and sandy patches. The morning yielded a ballast stone pile and a couple of square steel bands that looked like they belonged to something that we were looking for. Very promising. Back to the boat for lunch and then back on the water for round two with renewed vigour. We were hoping to find possibly an anchor or something even more substantial. We all stopped at the ballast pile and got a feel for how things looked, ie. Man made versus natural. And with this new insight, struck off snorkelling in six different directions. We were snorkelling in about 6-7 feet of water when James came across what he thought was a mast band. This led us to believe we were in the right spot. We spread out again and as I was cruising along, looking well forward, I found I was looking into what seemed to be a barrel sponge that had fallen over. As I got closer I realised it was the fabled cannon maybe even a 32 pounder. WOW!! I was so excited I whooped and hollered and let everyone know I had found something. They all came scrambling over to the spot and as soon as they got there I took off in search of more treasures. Young Joe, another Canadian, realised he was also directly over another cannon. I had gone further up onto the shallows of the reef and came across another trio of cannons. Unbelievable! After yelling myself hoarse I took off again and found a still as of yet unnamed item. Needless to say my enthusiasm and respect for archaeological work is peaking and I have got “cannon fever”. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow!!

BY YOUNG JOE LAMONTAGNE

Today I awoke for the first time from sleeping out at sea. I just arrived from Canada a few days ago to join the Turks and Caicos Explorer 11 Team. My day started out by getting energized with a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. I didn’t really know how things would turn out today. Everything was so new. All I really knew was we had a target area where we would drive to in the tenders, and start exploring and searching for some items of distinctive metal that would possibly identify as part of a ship wreck.

Joe Lamontagne with a carronade from the US Brig Chippewea

So we got all our gear together and started loading on to the tenders to set way. The day before today I heard something that is pretty meaningful. The reason for most shipwrecks is because of shallow waters. And the only way to find a shipwreck is to face the shallow waters ourselves. Well that’s exactly what we did. We arrived in the area where we suspected our target was and had to cross the shallow water to get over to the other side. At this time it was low tide and… well …we suddenly realized that the coral was virtually 2-3 feet below us. So we had to jump out into the water and guide the boat in between the coral heads by tugging it, so we could safely pass by. It took a little bit of looking ahead just to determine if we could pass, which in the end turned out very successful.

So now we were on the side we wanted to be and we set up for tow boarding. We tied one line on the tow line and, well, it worked pretty well, but we needed to be more considerate of our boat because there are lots of coral heads that could damage the boat.
So we all jumped in and started just snorkelling around while the boat was anchored. We had about an hour to search around the area trying to find the things that we needed to find. By now the hour was up and what we had discovered was a pile of ballast stones and a few iron links that looked like it could be promising.

We had taken an GPS co-ordinate and also marked the area with a buoy so we could return to the same place after lunch. We got back to the “mothership” for lunch, and discussed what our plans were for the rest of the afternoon. As we finished up everything we set out for a second time to go retrace our tracks and start searching for more interesting things. We were all excited now and motivated to find more things. The waves have increased in size and the surge just made you sail over the area. We were searching for only about half hour and Jack stumbled upon a carronade. As he was shouting for joy and really excited to tell everyone, I was still searching right beside him scouting out the whole area and saw the second carronade right under Tony and Don fins. As I was coming out of the water to tell everyone about the second carronade Don was one step ahead of me and explained that the second carronade was right below him. We were all very excited to find the two carronades. We continued on with scouting out the area around cannons and. After about five more minutes, Jack and I decided to go get a buoy to mark the cannons so we could come back to them later on. So I was the one who went over to the boat, which was about 5 mins away to grab the marker Jack was shouting to me when I was on the boat that he just found three more carronades. I was so excited and rushed over to him with the marker as quickly as possible to see what he just found. What an amazing experience to most likely be the first people to have seen these cannons since they were on their boat. We finished marking all the Cannons with buoys and GPS coordinates, and then decided to call it a day. The seas were getting rougher which made the snorkelling a bit more difficult and a bit tiring swimming against the current. So as we left the site I was already thinking about our next day and what would we be doing around the area. So I really can’t wait to get back in the water and I bet everyone else who’s on the team is thinking the same thing.