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Pieces of Eight

ECU faculty collaborating on a Maritime Studies Field School are pictured above, along with one of the vessels under study, the Falls of Clyde, outside the Hawaii Maritime Center. (Contributed photos)


ECU Maritime Group Studies Iron Ships in Hawaii

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

It’s not every semester that a student can earn six credits doing underwater dives on a remote Hawaiian island.

But a contingent from East Carolina University’s Maritime Studies Field School is letting more than a dozen students and faculty mix schoolwork with diving this month.

The group from ECU’s departments of maritime studies, economics and communication are spending September in Hawaii to learn about and document a pair of iron ships from the 1800s: the now-sunken Ivanhoe and a similar ship, Falls of the Clyde. They spent their first week visiting Clyde in Honolulu to get an above-the-water understanding of the ship and its structure, and are now visiting the site of the shipwrecked Ivanhoe on the island of Kauai.

“When they document the Ivanhoe, they’ll know what they’re looking at,” said Nathan Richards, ECU Maritime Studies professor and project leader. “They’ll see the knees of the deck, the way the stern is constructed. Part of this field school is teaching the anatomy of an iron ship.”

The Ivanhoe was built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1868, and the circumstances of its 1915 sinking are unknown. The purpose of this field school is to begin to document what remains of the ship and to answer some of the questions surrounding the last few years of its existence.

The Field School project, The Ferrous Shipbuilding Tradition: A Comparative Nautical Anatomy, is funded in part by a $40,000 grant Richards received from ECU’s research development grant program.

Accompanying the maritime students are Michael Dermody, professor of communication, maritime studies professor Brad Rodgers, and ECU Coastal Resources Management Ph.D. student Calvin Mires.

Dermody is producing a documentary of the field school; Mires is working with ECU economics professor Craig Landry to conduct an economic study of the value people place on historical sites and monuments, such as the Clyde, which was closed recently to the public due to rust and disrepair.

The field study’s web site, blog and image gallery can be found at

This page originally appeared in the September 21, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at