Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shipwreck search and background

Am I going to go crawling up into that cave? The honest answer is......probably not. I am okay with caves I can stand up in, been in lots like Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth, some in PA, Longhorn Caverns in Texas.....but if it requires crawling through skinny spots to get to the cavern beyond, etc....I ain't yer guy.

I might go far enough in to shine a light to see what it looks like further on...maybe, but I am more into trilobites than troglodytes.
Well, if you want to come to the TCI on vacation, I'll be happy to draw you a map....and you can spelunk away..

Speaking of maps..I wanted to show another one. This is a GE image of an area where we have been exploring. I have marked several piles of ballast stones we have found, plus the location of some iron rudder parts (gudgeon), and where we found clay and fire bricks, and bottle pieces from the 1700's. The ballast pile to the east I found while looking for conch, and we haven't really explored that area much yet.

When I plotted these all out, it started to maybe tell a story. Originally, we had thought that we had found ballast from several small boats who just all happened to screw up in the same general area. Now we dont think so. All the ballast stones are of European origin. The boat was big enough to have cooking facilities on it. The iron rudder gudgeon is too heavy for me to swim with, maybe 50 lbs.

So I started looking at this scatter, and on the GE image I noticed some other things. They are hard to see, but I was wondering if any of you guys might see some of the stuff that is getting my attention in that image above?

So, I put some marks on it to show you what I am looking at. Look at the first one again, and concentrate on the areas where I put the marks. Can you see how some of these are not consistant with the general pattern of the reef structure? I am seeing angles, and possibly an old trench.

I am thinking that the first thing a captain would do if his ship got driven onto a reef would be drop the hook to try to keep the ship from hitting more reef. If you look at the start of what I am calling the "trench", and the distance to the easternmost ballast, that could be the initial configuration of the boat to its anchor, once it stopped. The start of the trench would be near the place of initial impact.

The distance from the start of the trench to the eastern ballast is about the same as the distance from the end of the trench to the rudder parts and ballast.

The changing wind direction would make for a curving anchor drag mark, and this "trench does curve, toward where we have found additional ballast, ending with the breaking up of the main portion of the boat dropping bricks and tearing the rudder off.

The location and direction of the "trench" is what I would expect if the boat got driven onto and over the reef, and then they dropped the anchor inside the reef to prevent further damage ( which didnt work). We could probably come up with a good estimate of where on the outside of the reef the ship originally struck by just extending the trench northward. That would have been the direction of drift.

Just trying to come up with a scenario that would logically put all this together, because, after all, there definitely IS a story here. We already know that.

Time to get the hookah running and do some more exploring, I guess.

I've read Nigel Sadler's book on the TCI a couple times. Lots of interesting stuff there. Peter Benchley, the "Jaws" author and some friends did a stint at treasure hunting down here, but basically they didn't know what they were doing. Their names are still dirty words here, too. At the moment, Kim Fisher and a boat from SC are down here doing some searching over between Provo and West Caicos. We spoke with one of the people involved, they are finding cannon and bringing them up for a new Maritime Museum the TCI is building on Provo.

It's been estimated that over 1,000 ships have wrecked here, and less than 100 of those have been found and identified. The ones mentioned that were spotted from Birch's Lookout typically ran up onto the reef, and didn't sink right away. They had plenty of time to offload lumber and cargo. the ship would sit there, holed, until it eventually got broken up by the next storm.

We are more interested in wrecks before the 1800's, before it was commercial trade. We like the idea of boats that hit the reef and sank back where there were no locals or witnesses to run out and help them. It wouldn't be hard to imagine sailors washing ashore, and living years before dying, or being rescued.

Its pretty well accepted that Columbus stopped here on his first voyage in 1492. Ponce De Leon came through a few years later. So, those wrecks between 1500 and 1800 are very interesting to us. Three hundred years of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English sailing around these little islands had to result in some pretty interesting stuff laying on the bottom. The reefs are treacherous, and they come up from the bottom suddenly. People still hit them today.

All ships before the late 1800's had cannon, muskets, and other fun stuff on board. Even merchants carried cannon. Of course all ships carried some amount of gold or silver, even if it wasn't primarily a treasure ship. They had to be able to buy provisions, pay crew, bribes, pay for repairs in foreign ports, etc.

We love the excitement of picking something up off the bottom, holding it in our hands and thinking about the last hands to touch it all those years ago. We look for wrecks because its fun. If we pick up a few cannon balls for the new house, or the odd cutlass, so much the better.

Its like an Easter egg hunt for the big kids. We love it.
I was sitting in the breakfast area of the Holiday Inn near the Houston Astrodome some years ago. I was there for the Offshore Technology Conference, as I was for 20 years. I was the only person sitting at a small table, and every other table in the place was taken. Mel Fisher walked up with his buffet tray and asked if he could sit down. I recognized him, of course, from photos. Plus he had a lot of really interesting gold hanging around his neck. So I got to spend about a half hour or so eating breakfast and talking about wreck hunting technology. He stopped by our booth later to look at the underwater tracking and navigation system we built. But the truth was, he didn't need one. The water is so clear, and shallow, where he worked that knowing where the ROV was located was never a problem.

Its been thunderstorms and raining off and on for three days here right now, and I haven't been out much. Worked on my truck yesterday, and we went and bought a refrigerator. Was thinking about going scrounging at the town dump later on..... I need some one inch channel or square tubing and am thinking the legs of a certain kind of outdoor grill might work...
No, I ain't messing with our grill. I am thinking of scrounging at the town dump to find an old one. I need some square tubing to fabricate something FOR La Gringa. She's missing the foot rest for her total gym machine, its in storage in a box, in a pile of boxes... I am going to make her a replacement until we get moved in and finally unpacked after two and a half years of being vagabonds...

Its overcast here again today, so I wont be able to get any fresh sunny photos until it clears up. Its been three days of clouds now!! My tan is fading, I look like I just got off a plane from Montreal!!

(This was in response to a question about the house)
The outside is finished the same way, 'an architectural coating, two coats with base coat 3/8" thick, then when properly cured, a second coat 1/4" thick, with "Hi-Tech Fibers" mixed in as per manufacturers instructions in both coats. (this is from the architect's spec btw). Exterior walls will have Flextec Flexbond III, modified with Superbond II, with a 'Venetian" surface structure in pattern approved by architect' ( and us). We've chosen some version of white for now...we might add some other color over that later after we have been in for a while. I can see us adding some pretty bright tropical colors for trim.

(this was in response to a question about cooking conch)
The photo wasnt conch salad, thats a different dish. Conch salad is little diced up pieces of conch, marinated in lime juice, and mixed with diced up onions, red peppers, etc. Its kind of like ceviche.
Yeah, for conch dishes where we have chunks of conch, we pound it. We use a little tenderizing hammer. The locals use a lignum vitae mallet called a "conch bruiser". I am keeping my eye out for one of those. Some of the old timers also used to use the old thick glass coca cola bottles for that.
When we want to make something with finely chopped conch, ( conch chili, fritters, etc) we run it through a hand crank meat grinder. We tend to put a LOT more meat in our dishes than the restaurants do, of course.

(this was in response to a forum question about moving the anchor)
The anchor, well, we have discussed that, actually. We could get it over to the new house, of course. That would be a little mini-adventure, but basically we would probably borrow the zodiac RIB we sold to Jay at Sail Provo, use a front end loader on Pine Cay to set the anchor in it and tow it to Provo. Then we would have the guys at the shipyard lift it with a davit or the travel-lift, and put it on a sheet of plywood on our boat trailer, then haul it up the hill. Piece of cake, right? Put it next to the flagpole, right under the Lone Star... or next to the driveway. But we gotta leave room for some cannon and maybe another anchor.

We are really glad you guys like the photos. Its actually gotten us to take a fresh look at where we live, and appreciate it a little bit more. We have gotten so acclimated to this "Land of MakeDo" , that most of this has pretty much become commonplace to us. These are all our normal day-to-day activities. Your comments make it fresh to us again. Gives us some new ideas, and reminds us of some ideas we haven't followed up on yet. Thanks.

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