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ECU researchers Dr. Nathan Richards (Maritime Studies), Mark Keusenkothen (Diving and Water Safety) and Mike Dermody (Communication) pause at their safety stop following a dive to 50 feet. The three were taking part in a survey to help analyze a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda. (Contributed photo)

ECU Team Assesses Ship in Bermuda

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

BERMUDA — A research team led by East Carolina University Maritime Studies professors Nathan Richards and Bradley Rodgers traveled to Bermuda last month to help officials there determine the origin and history of a shipwreck in Bermuda’s Great Sound.

While the main aim of the archeological survey was to determine the impact of a proposed cruise ship terminal off Ireland Island, Richards said that the shipwreck was useful to his growing body of research about iron ships and shipbuilding traditions.

“There is an ‘applied’ aspect to this project,” Richards said, “but this is a part of our ongoing research, and is sort of a follow up to the work we’d done in Hawaii.” This fall, Richards and Rodgers led a group of graduate students to the Hawaiian island of Kauai to conduct fieldwork on the shipwreck “Ivanhoe.” Richards had received a $40,000 grant from ECU’s Research and Graduate studies for the fieldwork.

ECU Communications professor Michael Dermody, Richards and Rodgers and two students conducted the work in Bermuda from Dec. 14 through Dec. 20, utilizing underwater cameras and surveillance tools to document the 65 foot long iron vessel, believed to be one of the original tugboats used to build parts of the Royal Naval Dockyard in the late 19th century.

Dermody, working with ECU alumnus Kevin Wells, produced a short documentary on the research. Richards noted that the group tested out a new tool that would enable them to build– underwater – a three-dimensional model of the site. The three-dimensional virtual model will allow non-divers to view and interact with the site, he said.

Through a cruise ship consortium fund, the Bermuda Maritime Museum paid $27,000 in expenses for the ECU film and underwater archaeology teams to conduct the research and produce the documentary. ECU graduate students Joseph Hoyt, of Maritime Studies, and Coastal Resources Management Ph.D. candidate Mark Keusenkothen, assisted with the study.

No matter what the archaeological assessment means for the building of the cruise ship terminal, Richards said the material they produced could be included in exhibits in the Bermuda Maritime Museum or on the Internet, and could lead to future ECU field schools being held in Bermuda.

This page originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at