Thursday, December 4, 2008

In addition to writing term papers upon the return from Crystal River, yours truly had to buckle down and get hard to work on the newest addition to our interpretive tool chest here at FPAN….an interactive tarp of the Maple Leaf shipwreck*.

For those who have not heard of the Maple Leaf, she was a paddle-wheel steamship contracted by the US Army during the Civil War to transport troops and baggage. After bringing troops and baggage to Jacksonville from South Carolina, she was ordered to transport fresh horses to a cavalry detachment in Palatka; before the baggage in her hold could be unloaded in Jacksonville. The trip up river to Palatka was uneventful, but on her return towards Jacksonville the Maple Leaf struck a confederate “torpedo” (what we today call a mine) that had been placed in the St. John’s the previous evening. Having sunk of Mandarin Point, the wreck was located by a group of local history buffs who created St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions, Inc (SJAEI) and in conjunction with East Carolina University (ECU) conducted excavations of the shipwreck. With the diverse artifact assemblage, and the shipwrecks’ role as a true moment in time, Maple Leaf was the perfect candidate for a maritime archaeology interpretive tarp.

The tarp we produced measures 9 ft X 12 ft and is painted with the site plan of the steamship. For “artifacts” we decided to use various blocks of wood with pictures of the actual items recovered applied to them with a wood burner. On 22 Nov, we had the opportunity to test run the tarp for a group of cub scouts who were doing a service project at the Mandarin Museum in Jacksonville. Only a few hundred yards from the shipwreck, the location was perfect for the tarp’s debut. We had 46 scouts and parents in attendance. Andy Morrow, director of the museum, and Sarah began by talking to the group about the historical context, what was archaeology, the nature of doing archaeology underwater, etc, before the scouts were broken up into groups for a relay race. In groups of two to three scouts, we had them put on scuba masks, “dive” onto the site, turn over an artifact block (some of which were blank…yes we’re evil…), return to their recorder with whom they used a key to identify the artifact and then map it. We then looked at how they recorded the site and talked briefly about how the artifacts are distributed in roughly three main areas: Sutler goods, Officers goods, and enlisted goods. Having accomplished all of this in a half hour time slot, we then took pictures of the scouts with “Florida Floyd” the archaeological Mr. Potato head.

Now, to our next adventures with FPAN…..

-Adam Cripps

*For those interested in learning more about the Maple Leaf, you can visit their website at Http:// Artifacts from the wreck can be seen at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, as well at the Mandarin Museum. Speaking of the Mandarin Museum, they are having their 9th Annual Winter Celebration this Saturday, 6 December, from 11AM to 4PM, so it’s a good excuse to stop by for a visit!

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