Field School - Summer 2006
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
May 16 - June 22
From May 29th through June 27th the Maritime Program conducted the 2006 summer field school in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Principal investigator Dr. Brad Rodgers chose the site of the bulk carrier Continental for a phase-two, pre-disturbance survey. This would augment years of Rodgers' research on Great Lakes shipping. The project's objectives included detailed documentation of the vessel’s structure as well as the machinery on board.
Continental was built in 1882 at Cleveland, Ohio, by master carpenter George Presley for the Republic Iron Co. of Marquette, Michigan. As students quickly learned, Continental was a very large vessel, measuring 244.7' long with a 36.4' beam, giving the freighter 1,506.67 gross tons. In 1884, the vessel was fitted with a fore and aft compound steam engine built by Globe Ironworks of Cleveland which provided 600 horsepower at 84 rpm. This machinery still rests within the remains of Continental, allowing a rare opportunity to study this type of propulsion in detail. After 22 years of service on the lakes, Continental settled into the archaeological record on 12 December 1904 and began evolving toward the site we investigated this summer.
Participating first year students from the Maritime Program included Michelle Damian, Tricia Dodds, Joe Hoyt, Amy Leuchtmann, Adam Friedman, and Annie Tock. Two students from outside the program attended as well: Stephen Sanchagrin, a Geography student at East Carolina and Sarah Newman from Yale University. Second year students Sami Seeb and Tiffany Pecoraro served as crew chiefs to aid PI- Dr. Brad Rodgers and CO-PI Dr. David Stewart. With the addition of Mark Keusenkothen as the diving safety officer it was an able team for the job. ECU Maritime Program alum Keith Meverden (2005) along with Tamara Thomson of the Wisconsin Historical Society aided in the successful completion of this project.
After an arduous road trip from Greenville, we arrived in the quaint little fishing village of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and immediately began preparing for work. Tamara and Keith had arranged for our accommodations. Students were divided between two houses, and a third was ready for the professors and the DSO. Our base of operations was established in the Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum. This museum is dedicated to showcasing Two Rivers' role in the fishing industry, as well as other aspects of Lake Michigan maritime history. One building was specifically a shipwreck exhibit, with audiovisual and artifact displays pertinent to local shipwrecks. We set up our drafting center there. A unique style of disseminating information engaged interested parties as we acted as a “living exhibit;” drafting the vessel's site plan in a room open to the public. We held two separate open houses, during which interested parties could come in and witness the process of archaeological documentation. Though it was a small venue, there was a solid turnout. People were able to ask questions and interact with students and professors. This was our best attempt to incorporate and introduce them to what is ultimately THEIR resource.
The museum had several other buildings, one of which served to store our equipment, as it was convenient to the river where our research vessel was docked. To transport the team onto site we had ECU's newest vessel, a 25' Tomcat and a small Boston Whaler, the R/V Dawn Treader provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society. These vessels provided an ample platform for our operations. Over a one month period, we enjoyed surprisingly decent weather, with only a few blowout days. Visibility on the site fluctuated greatly from less than two feet to up to forty feet or more, but was typically around ten feet. The lake temperature, being in the 40's, was somewhat cooler than many divers were accustomed to but did not present a great issue.
Initial work on the site proceeded slowly, as field schools do, but soon everyone settled into a rhythm and began working with greater efficiency. Traditional baseline offsets and trilateration were used for documenting at a scale of 1''=2'. Significant portions of the hull collapsed outward (particularly on the port side), so a complex baseline with two kinks, or “dog legs” was used. Students were assigned ten foot sections of the wreck; on completion they moved to the next remaining section.
This ship was, and is, truly enormous. Over the course of the project, we identified many interesting construction techniques used on Continental. There were large preserved sections of thwart-ship ceiling planking and, as the sides of the hull now lay flat, an exquisite view of built-in ceiling arches was clearly evident. Longitudinal arches were common on this type of vessel, but being incorporated into the ceiling planking was unusual. With persistent hard work and the wise tutelage of our advisors, every visible scantling was recorded with a high degree of accuracy and detail. The next step is, of course, to interpret our findings and tie everything into a larger picture. A sincere debt of gratitude is owed to the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum for all their assistance in making this project a successful endeavor. Without their aid and their professionalism, the documentation of Continental would not have been possible. – Joe Hoyt