Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Next week, I'll be joining staff from FPAN West-Central to document a known (yet unrecorded) shipwreck in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  near Marco Island, FL. This project addresses two of FPAN's primary goals--to support the Florida Division of Historical Resources (DHR), and to assist local governments. Also, it allows for cooperation among multiple FPAN regions, which is always a fun and valuable learning experience for all of those involved.

Unsurprisingly, my involvement with this project got me thinking about FPAN's Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar (HADS)  and Submerged Sites Education and Archaeological Stewardship (SSEAS) training programs. The former teaches scuba instructors and dive shop owners the importance of protecting underwater cultural resources (generally shipwrecks), while the latter instructs proficient divers on how to locate, map, and record underwater sites.



HADS is probably one of FPAN's most popular and successful training programs, occurring at least once a year near Marathon (Duck Key) in the Florida Keys (HADS programs are often scheduled in other areas of FL as need arises). Its success is due in part to the collaboration with underwater archaeologists at the state DHR, who join FPAN staff to teach about preservation and submerged archaeological resource laws in Florida.

As part of their curriculum, dive instructors are obligated to teach about protecting the ocean's natural resources (e.g, coral reefs, fish, mollusks), but cultural resources--namely shipwrecks--are often ignored entirely. HADS directly addresses this issue, explaining that shipwrecks and other human-made objects have also become part of the natural undersea ecosystem. Further, these resources are equally fragile, and cannot be enjoyed buy future divers if they're routinely touched, looted, and/or molested by underwater adventurers.  To solidify this point, HADS students dive on two separate shipwrecks. One has been heavily looted, and there isn't as much to see and enjoy. The second is more pristine, offering a more complete record of the resource--and thus a more satisfying experience.Read in much more detail about HADS and FPAN Northeast's past experience here.

You can barely make out the wooden planks of "Brick Wreck"
because it has been heavily looted. 
Divers descend on a massive ballast pile, HADS 2013
Dr. Della Scott-Ireton locats a ceramic sherd near the wreck, HADS 2013

Although the HADS program has been offered at several different locations throughout Florida, it has been relegated to open-water marine environments. As we all know, these only tell part of Florida's rich maritime history. The state's estuaries,  rivers, and springs also offer an immense record of  both historic and prehistoric (canoes!) submerged resources.

To address this concern, FPAN staff from multiple regions will be collaborating to create a "Spring/River" HADS that focuses on our state's vast inland waterways. This new program is expected to be up and running by fall of 2014, so stay tuned to our blog and FPAN's home webpage for details on this forthcoming training program.

Silver River State Park in Ocala, FL offers a historic shipwreck




Text: Ryan Harke
Images: Ryan Harke, credit to Dale Cox for Silver Spring photo, credit to Nichole Bucchino (FPAN Northwest) for HADS 2013 photos.

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