Visit of archaeological divers from abroad

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From March 5, 2009 till March 19, 2009 two archaeological divers from the States and a group of archaeological divers (Mergor in Mosam) from the Netherlands were visiting Curaçao to work on the Mediator wreck. One of the two people from the States is the professional archaeologist under whose direction all archaeological activities on this wreck take place. He wrote an initial plan of the activities that could be undertaken during this period. That plan had to be adapted because it was not possible to dive on all days because of visiting cruise ships in the harbor.

A quote from his plan:
Testing is proposed in the stern portion of the vessel.  The stern has not been identified beneath what appears to be a massive amount of overburden that covers the after part of the wreck.  Evidence from past work at the site suggests that the hull of the vessel is twisted significantly.  Substantial differences have been recorded in the angle of the decking at the bow and amidships.  While most of the port side of the vessel is covered by silt and debris, several large sections that appear to be from the port side of the Mediator’s hull hang over the wreck implying that this part of the wreck is either crushed or lying on its side.

By locating the stern of the vessel, we may establish whether the after part of the wreck is intact and the degree to which the hull is actually twisted.  This information would be critical to determining the stability of the hull should additional removal of debris be planned aft of the engine room.  That is, if the hull is twisted and crushed, either from impact on what would have been the hard bottom of the harbor in the late 19th century or from the persistent addition of overburden from the slope leading to the quay wall, the hull may be unstable to the point that removing overburden could cause further damage and be unsafe for divers.  The work currently proposed in the stern area would be conducted either with an airlift, a dredge, a mechanical probe, or a combination of these techniques.

So it was decided to dig a number of test pits with the airlift in the stern portion of the wreck. I took pictures of the area before and after the activities in this area. Unfortunately none of the test pits revealed a part of the ship.

The before picture:
The numbers indicate the areas where the pits are made. Because it was not completely clear before where that would be I missed the area of the first pit. The dark line at the right side of the picture is the perpendicular baseline at the stern of the ship.

About the same area after the work was done:
The black line indicates the same baseline as in the previous picture. The numbers indicate the location of the three pits. Two of these are within the area that is consider to be inside the ship wreck and the third pit is behind the visible end of the ship wreck. Al three pits were made 1 meter deep but no decking was found at that depth, so the result is unconclusive.

The same area but now seen horizontally from the point where the baseline that is running over the middle of the ship crosses the perpendicular baseline at the stern of the ship is shown here:
The black line is superimposed on the perpendicular baseline and the figures 1, 2 and 3 indicate the location of the three pits.

The Dutch group undertook another activity during this period and that was clearing a part of the inside of the portside hull. The result is shown in the following pictures.
The white line shows that the angle of the fortification beams on the inside of the hull continue under the same angle in the lower part as in the upper part (above the remainder of the deck).

The Dutch group also cleared some of the debris on the starboard side of the ship near the stern to get an impression of the outline and condition of the ship.
The next picture is a panoramic shot of a large area on starboard side where the debris has been cleared.
Apparently there are two levels on the ship wreck. The two lines indicate the contours of each of these levels. The bottom line indicates a level that is visible left and right while the center is covered under the debris. The top line indicates a second level where part of the outside hull or some part of the inner structure of the ship is visible.
The next picture shows a close-up of the area near 1.
The following is a close-up of area 2

Another activity of the Dutch group was starting to measure the dimensions of the wreck. The divers have developed a computer program to eliminate measuring errors by combining information from a number of triangular measurements. They started at the bow part by setting up some base points. One of these base points is visible in the next picture.

The work is not completed and they transferred their program and knowledge how to use it to Stimana, so that we can continue this effort. It will allow us to detect changes in the structure of the ship over time and it will provide us with an accurate drawing of the wreck.

All in all a lot was accomplished in this period. The activities will be continued by the Stimana volunteers in the weekends.

 To welcome the visitors a reception was held on board of De Boot, a restored schooner moored at the Waaigat parking place.

 During their stay the Mergor in Mosam team brougt a visit to the small achaeological museum at Landhuis Daniel. This museum is maintained by Trunkdivers and contains artefacts from several achaeological dive sites.

 Part of the work was measuring the dimensions of the wreck using triangulation.