Menendez High School student Ricky Stratton makes a giant stride entry as LAMP intern Lindsay Jones, fellow student David Pouliotte, and Menendez High teacher Ken Jones look on.
One of LAMP’s more exciting educational activities is the MARC program. MARC=Maritime Archaeology Research Class. Founded in 2000, LAMP’s high school program was initiated at Nease High School, and later moved to Pedro Menendez High School just south of St. Augustine. With the inception of LAMP’s First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project (FCMAP), the MARC program was reorganized and expanded. Starting last September, the students enrolled in this class interact with archaeologists five times a week, including 2 hours of pool training for each student every week for NAUI scuba diver certification. Through our FCMAP grant, 10 new sets of dive gear were purchased so that these students can dive with LAMP archaeologists first as student divers and later as project volunteers. Last week, our first class of student archaeologists “graduated” by conducting their final two checkout dives on a historic shipwreck offshore St. Augustine.

Chuck Meide takes a moment to relax during a surface interval between checkout dives.
Chuck Meide is not only the Director of LAMP, but a certified NAUI diving instructor. For eight years he taught scuba diving at Florida State University, helping introduce over a thousand people to the world of diving. The curriculum he has designed for the MARC scuba certification class is largely based on that college-level course. Each student in the MARC class participated in 2 hours of training work in the pool every week from September through the end of December. This is much more underwater time that a student diver would receive in a typical scuba class taught at a dive shop. In addition, the students received one hour of scuba classroom training each week. All in all, these students have participated an an intense training effort, having learned skills that many recreational scuba divers haven’t even heard of. And that training shows. In their first two checkout dives at Ginnie Springs, I heard the comment from an experienced divemaster that he had never seen such skilled and relaxed student divers. Their next dive was a shallow one in Salt Run, where the students demonstrated their rescue diving skills in a low visibility environment.
On a surprisingly calm and sunny February day, the students and instructor swim from the boat to the buoy marking the downline to the steamship wreck below.
Low visibility training in the pool and in Salt Run served our students well, as the visibility offshore was predictably murky. In fact, it was really one of our worst days as far as visibility goes (and we have a lot more bad vis than good vis days). Regardless, in order for our students to receive their scuba diver certification, they have to safely participate in five dives. The last two took place today, on the Steamship Wreck located just offshore the Lighthouse.
Because visibility was so limited, for the most of the dive the students were limited to a very small area on top of the boiler and steam engine. These massive mechanical components stand around 10 feet off the seafloor, where the visibility is not quite so bad. Despite these limitations, the students still witnessed a wide variety of sea life, including sponges, sea urchins, sea anemones, and small and large fish. And of course they got a true hands-on history lesson, experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime visit to a historic shipwreck.
Menendez High students David Pouliotte (top) and Ricky Stratton on the surface after their first dive on a shipwreck.
Its no surprise that the students had a blast. While a few of them might have been a little anxious about their first ocean dive, we sure had a lot of smiling faces after returning to the world of daylight after their all too brief exploration of the sunken shipwreck hidden in the gloom below.
Ricky goofing off before his dive.
Mike H. clearly enjoyed his first dive on a shipwreck site.
Melissa Maxwell all dressed up and ready to go!
Patrick gives one last good-bye glance to the boat before entering the water.
Ricky Stratton prepares to climb back into the boat after his dive.
Congratulations to all of the MARC students from our first class who have finished their checkout dives and are now certified divers!