Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Lost And Found


The Day
By David Collins
September 09, 2005

A buoy marks the spot where the remains
of the “Sugarboat” lie at the bottom of the
sound, where it sank in 1930 near Greenwich
point, seen in the background, in Greenwich, Conn.

Plans for a data base of shipwrecks in Long Island Sound underway

Are the shipwrecks of Long Island Sound endangered? With controversial proposals like a new gas pipeline across the Sound and a floating natural gas terminal, there's a suggestion that development is increasingly going offshore.

And new projects that disturb the underwater environment have the potential to affect the sites of shipwrecks that, in some cases, have been undisturbed and naturally protected for centuries.
This was some of the thinking of Heritage Consultants, a Newington-based archaeological and environmental planning company, in proposing a new public data base that would identify and locate shipwreck sites.

“We think of it as a handy tool for people who are planning projects that are going to impact the waters of Long Island Sound in some way,” says Catherine M. Labadia, president of the consulting company.

This summer, Heritage Consultants got word their grant proposal to the state was accepted, and the project will be funded with $25,000 from the pool of money generated by the sale of Long Island Sound license plates.

Labadia said she hopes a one-year project, to create as thorough a data base as possible, will be followed with later phases that could involve other institutions, like Mystic Seaport Museum and the University of Connecticut campus at Avery Point, with fact-finding dives on wrecks and other research.

“I think at this point underwater archaeological research is in its infant form in the Northeast, compared to other places,” says Labadia, who has a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Connecticut.

The creation of the data base will entail research in a variety of municipal, academic and historical sources, she explains. In some ways it's a daunting task, to look for evidence of every ship that has ever sunk in Long Island Sound.

“The records occur at every level, national, state and at local repositories, like the Mystic Seaport, with barge companies, insurance companies, personal stories, captain's papers,” she says. “It's a monumental task, but our goal here is to make our absolute best attempt at gathering as much as we can for the time and money allowed.”

Labadia said the data base would be similar to one she is familiar with in Louisiana, where she and one of her partners worked before starting the Connecticut consulting company last year.
The information included would also be rated for reliability, so that the certainty of coordinates of a specific wreck that has been dived on, for instance, could be distinguished from reports of a sinking in a general vicinity.

The data base will belong to the state Department of Environmental Protection and be available for public use. Since there are no laws specifically protecting shipwreck sites, use of the list would be largely advisory for anyone planning to do underwater work in the Sound.
The DEP can also use it to assess a proposed project, she says.

“They can pull this up and say they would prefer you would avoid these areas,” she says.


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