Saturday, June 11, 2005


Never sausage an artifact


The Island Packet
By Jessica Flathmann
June 4, 2005

Callawassie dive yields little loot
Scientists searching underwater for shipwrecks, docks and other sunken items along Callawassie Island came up with little more than an old can, a wrench and a lot of crab traps during the past two weeks.

But that hasn't deterred the scientists from wondering what still lies below the surface of Chechessee Creek.

"It's a lot of hit and miss," said Jim Spirek, deputy state underwater archaeologist for the state Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.

State scientists surveyed the area around Callawassie Island last year with a magnetometer, a piece of equipment designed to detect magnetic fields, such as those from iron used in ships. About 240 locations were identified by the equipment as sites to study.

Scientists narrowed the list to about 30 sites targeted for exploration. Divers have been searching the specified areas for about two weeks.

Armed with a metal detector to help locate the items picked up by the magnetometer in the earlier survey, Arnold Postell, a dive safety officer with the S.C. Aquarium, and Chris Amer, the state underwater archaeologist, jumped into the murky water of Chechessee Creek on Friday morning. After nearly 45 minutes, the final dive in the Callawassie Island area research was completed as Amer came out of the water holding the rusted, hole-filled can of vienna sausages with its label still attached.

The work was done around Callawassie Island because a preservation club donated about $4,000, which was needed for the dives. Jim Scott, president of the Callawassie Island Stewards, said the group paid for the research so it could learn more about the island's history.

"What we're doing here is a little bit of two big projects," Scott said. "Their project to survey the coast and our project is to get the history of the island."

The group has stories about shipwrecks around the island, including a barge that supposedly went down with the property of the island's owner in the 1920s.

"This is, in a sense, archaeological prospecting," Spirek said. "I made no promises to the residents that we'd find something. But we'd give it a shot and see what we came up with."

Spirek said the team doesn't just want to discover items under the water as a way of learning more about the area's history. The information also can be used to help make decisions about permits for items, such as docks in the area.

State officials have been collecting information about areas of the Port Royal Sound rumored to have shipwrecks near them since 1997, when they began looking for a 16th-century French ship that supposedly wrecked off the coast of Hilton Head Island. The ship hasn't been found, but they still are looking. Most of that search is paid for through state and federal grants and private donations.

Though no shipwrecks were unearthed during the search around Callawassie Island, Scott still thinks the project was worthwhile.

"If you don't find anything," Scott told Spirek after the final dive, "you still end up with knowledge."


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