The Second Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage

January 16, 2014

The second Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii this May.  Online registration is now available.  Please see the conference website for additional details.

Conference Website:


Registration Website:



NOAA releases draft proposal to expand Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

June 20, 2013


NOAA today released for public comment a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and proposed rule for expanding the boundaries of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from its current 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles.

 The proposed expansion is based on several years of research by NOAA and its scientific partners as well as public input, and would include protection of an additional 47 known historic shipwrecks.

 During the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan in 2006, NOAA received comments expressing interest in expanding the sanctuary’s boundary to include the waters adjacent to Alcona and Presque Isle counties in Michigan. Specifically, several local government and non-governmental organizations passed resolutions or submitted written letters of support for boundary expansion.

 Additionally, in 2007, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted a resolution supporting expanded boundaries. NOAA held three public scoping meetings on this topic in April 2012.

 “The proposal to expand the sanctuary is the result of a collaborative effort that involved considerable input from all sectors of the local community,” said Jeff Gray, sanctuary superintendent. “We welcome further public review and comment as we go forward with the important job of managing this special place which is important to the regional economy and protects world-class historical and recreational shipwreck sites.”

 The sanctuary’s Great Lakes Visitor Center has become a major tourist destination and economic stimulant in the region. According to a 2005 study on total visitor spending in the region, the sanctuary impacts $92 million in sales, $35.8 million in personal income to residents, and 1,704 jobs.

 One of 14 sites managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Thunder Bay sanctuary currently protects 45 nationally significant shipwrecks. Research indicates that as many 100 shipwreck sites are yet to be discovered in northern Lake Huron. Through increased tourism and related business development, the sanctuary is working with various partners to encourage sustainable tourism in the region, and foster a broader awareness of the Great Lakes and their rich maritime heritage.

 The DEIS and proposed rule are available for download at thunderbay.noaa.gov. All comments must be received by August 13. Written comments should be sent by mail to: Jeff Gray, Sanctuary Superintendent, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 500 West Fletcher Street, Alpena MI 49707.

Comments may also be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. Under document type, select “Proposed Rule,” under Keyword or ID, type in NOAA-NOS-2012-0077. The documents are also available for review at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s headquarters office in Alpena.

 Public hearings will be held at the following locations:

  •  July 15, Presque Isle District Library, Rogers City Location, 181 East Erie Street, Rogers City, Mich.
  •  July 16, Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 W. Fletcher Street, Alpena, Mich.
  •  July 17, Alcona County Library, Harrisville Branch, 312 W. Main, Harrisville, Mich.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 2000, spans 448 square miles in northern Lake Huron. Jointly managed by NOAA and the state of Michigan, the sanctuary’s mission is to preserve nationally-significant shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources through resource protection, education and research. Well-preserved by Lake Huron’s cold, fresh water, these shipwrecks span 150 years of Great Lakes maritime history.

 NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


New Quarterly Newsletter: ACUA Student

May 6, 2013

New Quarterly Newsletter: ACUA Student

ACUA Student

ACUA Student

The student representatives for the ACUA are now releasing a quarterly newsletter ACUA Student geared toward all underwater archaeology students, undergraduate or graduate! These newsletters will contain great information on current student research, upcoming conferences, field school opportunities, and ways to advance your professional career.


Mediterranean Field Schools and AAUS Scientific Diving Course

April 12, 2013

blogban2The Illyrian Coastal Exploration Program would like to invite individuals interested in Mediterranean archaeology to apply for the 2013 underwater sciences field school. Set along the beautiful Dalmatian coast from July 8-21, the course spends one week each in Croatia and Montenegro. The field school is hosted by the International Centre for Underwater  Archaeology in Zadar in collaboration with RPM Nautical Foundation and Transylvania University.

Students will work with the international team to learn the basics of underwater archaeology and coastal ecology. This course is suitable for beginners, especially undergraduates and masters students. Participants will learn survey methods, underwater recording, and help with ongoing research. There will even be a chance to see advanced methods up close with a visit to the deep sea research vessel *Hercules*. The field school will explore shipwrecks dating from the 4th century BC through modern times and record artifacts from many different time periods. Though the field school is a general survey of maritime archaeology topics,  students will leave with a good understanding of the fundamental theories and practical  techniques used by archaeologists.

Application: http://www.illyriancoast.org/
Contact: info@illyriancoast.org
Dates: July 8-21
Cost: $2000 (optional university credit available for additional fee)
Application Deadline: May 1

A ten day field school is offered through the Albanian Center for Marine Research from July 23-August 2. This field school will explore the fantastic shipwrecks of southern Albania, ranging from the 5th century BC through World War II. Albania offers untouched submerged sites due to the former communist government’s complete restriction on diving, making Albanian diving today similar to 1950s Mediterranean diving at large: pristine and full of underwater heritage.  Students and staff will be housed in small local hotel in Saranda, directly across from the island  of Corfu and near the Butrint UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Application: http://albaniamarinecenter.org/pages/education.html
Contact: info@albaniamarinecenter.org
Dates: July 23-August 2
Cost: $1000 (optional university credit available for additional fee)
Application Deadline: May 1

The Center is also offering an AAUS scientific diving course. If you arelooking to upgrade your  recreational/sport diver certification in order to work or help out on university or professional  projects, AAUS scientific diving teaches “everything but the hard hat.” After this course you won’t  just know how to dive, you will know how to work underwater. This intensive course will be from June 20-July 3 in beautiful southern Albania.

Application: http://albaniamarinecenter.org/pages/education.html
Contact: info@albaniamarinecenter.org
Dates: June 20-July3
Cost: $1000
Application Deadline: May 1


J. Richard Steffy’s Lost Ship Model – By Loren Steffy

March 6, 2013

Loren SteffyThe letters nagged at me like a persistent hint from the past.

I’d first encountered them among my father’s papers as I researched my book, The Man Who Thought Like a Ship. They pertained to a ship model he’d built in the 1950s of an ancient Egyptian vessel. The model left home before I was born, and everyone, my father included, assumed it had been discarded long ago. I’d only ever seen it in pictures.

My father, J. Richard “Dick” Steffy, was a pioneer in nautical archaeology. He developed a method for rebuilding ships from their sunken hull fragments and proved those theories by rebuilding the 2,300-year-old Kyrenia Ship in Cyprus in the early 1970s. He helped found the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1985.

J. Richard Steffy  with the Egyptian model soon after it was completed in 1963.

J. Richard Steffy with the Egyptian model soon after it was completed in 1963. He won Best of Show in the county hobby fair. (Photo courtesy of the Reading Eagle).


For the first 25 years of his working life, he was a small-town electrician in central Pennsylvania, and then, without even a bachelor’s degree himself, used his expertise in ship reconstruction to become a professor at Texas A&M University. Today, scores of his former students employ his methods worldwide.

The Egyptian model, though, hearkened to an earlier time, to the early years when my father still spent six days a week wiring factories and the wee hours of his nights building ship models in the basement.

Using what scant research he could find at the time about Egyptian shipbuilding, he attempted to reproduce with his model the original construction techniques. Each hull plank was about an inch and a half long, reflecting the short trees that the Egyptians used in shipbuilding. They were painstaking edge-joined, and the entire hull retained its shape from tension applied by a rope truss that ran from stem to stern. The Egyptians used no keels or frames.

An example of the model's joinery.

An example of the model’s joinery.

In all, the model had 2,000 pieces, and it took him more than 400 hours over 12 years to complete. As he built it, he began to lay the foundations of his new career, formulating the use of models in rebuilding sunken hulls.

In 1963, he arranged a meeting with George Bass, who had led the world’s first underwater archaeological dig off the coast of Turkey three years earlier. My father offered to build a model of a Byzantine wreck from the seventh century that Bass had uncovered. To seal the deal, to show his mettle as a modeler, he brought the Egyptian vessel with him to the meeting.

“I had no way of knowing how accurate it was or anything else,” Bass recalled. “It was the first time I’d ever looked at the model of an ancient ship. It wasn’t one of these slick yacht models.”

Nevertheless, Bass was thrilled with the idea of a Byzantine model, and this electrician seemed to know what he was doing. The two would begin a friendship and professional collaboration that would last the rest of their lives.

While my father would embark on one of the world’s more unusual career changes, the Egyptian model seemed to disappear.

No one, least of all my father, spent much time wondering what happened to it. He had little love for his models. Most weren’t built for aesthetics. He saw them as research tools that, once he had learned all he could from them, should be discarded. Because part of their lesson was to show how a ship broke apart when it sank, most didn’t last long. Only three others – including the one of the Byzantine wreck that he agreed to build for Bass – are known to have survived and are on display in museums in Cyprus, Turkey and South Carolina.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t get those letters out of my mind. Given the chance to find one of his long-lost works, I decided I had to know for sure what had become of the Egyptian ship. The letters provided a clue.

I got in touch with Cynthia Eiseman, a former student of Bass’s who’s been involved with nautical archaeology for decades. She wrote one of the letters in 1969, while working a summer job at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum. Her letter indicated my father had donated the Egyptian model to the museum, and she was asking what he wanted done with it.

The model soon after arriving at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum in 1965. Note the clay figures of the crew, which have since crumbled.

The model soon after arriving at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum in 1965. Note the clay figures of the crew, which have since crumbled.

“It was a surprise to hear the model is still in existence as it was not built for display purposes and has led a hard life,” he wrote back. “I would like to see the model on my next trip to the museum to find out why it has not disintegrated because it is basically only held together by the pressure of its own gunwales.”

Eiseman, who still lives in Philadelphia, didn’t remember the exchange or the model, but she offered to help look for it.

A few days later, she called to say she’d found it. It had been sitting for years in the storeroom of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, which had been searching for a home for it.

The museum focuses on the maritime history of Philadelphia. Ancient Egyptian ships fall outside of its mandate, and the museum had “deaccessioned” the model in 1993. Since then, it remained in the a store room filled with shelves of ship models and seafaring artwork.

“Given that your dad never kept his models, it’s extraordinary that this one has survived,” Eiseman said.

Fortunately, the museum couldn’t bring itself to part with the ship.

“Museums sometimes have a hard time letting go,” Chief Curator Craig Bruns told me. “Nobody found a proper place for it until you asked. As a curator, I see it as a happy ending.”

Chief Curator Craig Bruns in the museum's storeroom.

Independence Seaport Museum Chief Curator Craig Bruns in the museum’s storeroom.

Last summer, I went to Philadelphia and drove the model to Texas, where it will but put on display in INA’s headquarters once a building renovation project is completed later this year.

Bruns provided letters from the museum’s files that filled in a few key details of the model’s history. My father wrote the museum in 1963 and offered to loan it the model, which he did in the summer of 1965.

While it didn’t fit with the museum’s mission, it was on display there for a time. Bruns gave me a plaque that had accompanied it and included the explanation: “While not a part of Delaware Valley history, it could be considered the `grandfather’ of all sea-going ships.”

It could also be considered the work that best represents my father’s transformation from hobbyist to ship expert.

The model remains in excellent condition. A few of the oars have fallen off and the crude figures my father fashioned to represent the crew have crumbled or broken away. The hull itself though, remains intact, still held to the proper curvature by the rope truss.

“It is an artifact of a discipline that he helped create,” INA President Deborah Carlson said.  “As a teaching tool the model will be accessible to students and faculty leading seminars in ancient seafaring and ship construction technology.”

The model today.

The hull was formed from one-and-half-inch pieces designed to recreate the short timbers used by Egyptian shipbuilders.

I wonder what my father, with his lack of sentiment for his creations, might say about that. He would be embarrassed by the model — there’s nothing that can be learned from it, he would say — yet if it benefited students, we would probably acquiesce to the display.

In the meantime, the Lost Ship Model waits to complete the last leg of its amazing journey. Sometimes, as I pass the room it’s in, I can’t help but stop there and peek inside its traveling crate. It’s as if my father’s dreams remain there, suspended in a time before they were fulfilled.

Nautical archaeology is now a recognized field of study, thanks to decades of effort by early pioneers like Bass and my father and the students they helped train. It is old enough that the field itself is developing its own history, a way for students who didn’t know the first generation to better understand how they developed their skills.

In a field that studies the past, the long-lost ship model offers a touchstone to its own unique history.

For more information about J. Richard Steffy see Loren Steffy’s book: The Man Who Thought Like a Ship.


Loren Steffy is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle and the author of  The Man Who Thought Like a Ship.

* The opinions expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of the MUA, its staff, or its partner organizations.


Curator for Education and Volunteers Wanted at Battleship Cove

December 27, 2012

CURATOR FOR EDUCATION AND VOLUNTEERS for the world’s largest collection of US Navy historic ships.

Battleship Cove (southeastern Massachusetts) is seeking an experienced, dynamic professional to lead all educational initiatives and supervise expanding education programs.  Candidate should possess a creative and enthusiastic personality to rejuvenate and supervise our successful Overnight Camping Program, coordinate volunteers, as well as direct and expand the visitor’s learning experience to enhance their overall visit.  Candidates must also be able to design curricula, initiate education programs and develop interpretive materials.

Credentials:  Applicant must have a teaching qualification and a minimum of two years experience of working in a museum environment.  Experience working with and leading volunteers essential.  A BA degree is required, as well as evidence of experience in educational programs and/or museum studies.  A knowledge of or interest in maritime history would be an advantage but the experience of teaching other disciplines such as science or literacy would also be welcomed.

For an Application Form and Job Description call or e-mail Sue Couitt: 1-508-678-1100 x 102; email: suec@battleshipcove.org; address: USS Massachusetts Memorial Committee, Inc., P.O. Box 111, Fall River, MA  02722.    EOE.


Underwater Corrosion Testing of the Holland 5 – H.M. Submarine No. 5 By David Crosthwaite-Eyre

December 27, 2012
Diver using a Cygnus Instruments ultrasonic thickness gauge.

Diver using a Cygnus Instruments ultrasonic thickness gauge.

In 1900 the Royal Navy signed a contract to build five ‘Holland’ class submarines. Entering service in 1903, these experimental boats were the Royal Navy’s first submarines, and over the next decade proved the value of the submarine as a weapon of war.

Developments in technology rendered the ‘Hollands’ obsolete and they were either sold for scrap or destined to be used for gunnery practice. HM Submarine No. 5 (the ‘Holland 5’) was en route to a naval yard when it slipped its tow and sunk in 1912. It lay undiscovered off the English south coast until accidentally found in 1995. Now protected by law, it has remained undisturbed on the seabed for almost a century.

In 2010 a Masters student from the School of Applied Sciences at Cranfield University and keen recreational diver, Duncan Harwood, decided to make the Holland 5 the subject of his dissertation.  More specifically, he wished to examine the rate of corrosion suffered by the wreck, and to consider the mechanisms and factors which may have affected that rate of corrosion.

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