As Florida Archaeology Month (March) draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on LAMP’s biggest public archaeology event, the annual Northeast Florida Symposium on Maritime Archaeology. We sponsored, along with the Lighthouse, the GTM Research Reserve, FPAN, and a number of other supporters, this Symposium for the first time last year. As successful as that inaugural effort was, this year’s meeting–from March 12th to the 15th–was even greater!

The Symposium included three days of presentations by around 20 of our archaeological colleagues who came to St. Augustine from all over the country. The fourth and final day of the Symposium coincided with the 16th annual Lighthouse Maritime Festival, which saw not only three encore presentations and archaeological displays but also fun and games for the entire family, including a great new game for kids who got to assemble and actually sail small model boats. For those who haven’t yet seen it, you can download the Symposium’s program here.

The main sessions of presentations were all held at the GTM Research Reserve’s new Educational Center. The Reserve’s full name is the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Their facilities are top-of-the-line, and nestled between the ocean and the river system, you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting.

Kathy Fleming of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Marty Healey of the GTM Research Reserve welcomed our speakers and attendees on Wednesday morning with a brief slideshow. Here Marty gives an overview of the archaeological research that has taken place in the GTM Research Reserve over the past year. We were delighted to see greater numbers in the audience this year compared to last. At any given time during the three days of talks, we had as many as 55 people in attendance.

Dr. John de Bry, of the Center for Historical Archaeology, spoke about the history of the 1715 Spanish fleet lost on Florida’s Atlantic coast. An accomplished archival researcher and paleographer, Dr. de Bry is uniquely qualified to conduct the research in Spanish and French archives that led to our better understanding of this historic shipwreck event that occurred further south along our coast.

This year, for the first time, we were happy to host the University Press of Florida, who maintained a book table in the auditorium.

We were very pleased that our student attendance was much greater than last year. We had nine students from University of West Florida, two from Florida State University, and two from Flagler College. Staged breaks between papers allowed time for students, speakers, and members of the public to socialize.

One of our favorite speakers, Dr. David Switzer of Plymouth State University, gave a presentation on the archaeology of the Revolutionary War-era privateer, the Defence.

One of the great aspects of our Symposium is that we stage a special event each evening. At the close of the first day, we were treated to a fantastic keynote address by David Moore, of the North Carolina Maritime Museum. The classy venue, the famously beautiful Flagler Room at Flagler College, was superb. His talk was titled “A Decade of Pirate Perspective: Ten Years of Historical and Archaeological Research Related to the Remains of Blackbeard’s Flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.” Dave has accumulated so much information about Blackbeard and his shipwreck that he spoke for about ten years–just kidding, it wasn’t quite that long, and the audience loved every minute of it! Our co-sponsors at FPAN came up with an even greater title–“The Arrrrchaeology of Blackbeard!” We had a total of 97 people show up–what a testament to St. Augustine’s interest in archaeology!
The following morning, Thursday the 13th, we took a break from archaeological papers. We had two events planned and Symposium participants could choose whichever they liked. The first option was a guided tour of the Castillo de San Marcos, the 17th century fortification in downtown St. Augustine, originally built to repel seaborne invaders and protect the settlement. The second option was a Shipwreck Artifact Recording Workshop, which was geared towards members of the public interested in archaeology, especially those who might be interested in volunteering with LAMP or other archaeologists.

Here our keynote speaker, Dave Moore, poses with two other speakers, David Ball and Dr. Christopher Horrell, both archaeologists with the Minerals Management Service who traveled here from New Orleans.

Symposium attendee and State Underwater Archaeologist for Georgia Chris McCabe checks out a hearth inside the Castillo.

Meanwhile, the second group of attendees met at the GTM Research Reserve. After a brief discussion of artifact recording, we traveled just a bit down A1A to the North Beach Camp Resort. This camp resort has two old iron anchors on display right by the road. We quickly got to work with our workshop participants. In addition, several of our speakers volunteered to help us teach these basic archaeological techniques.

We were lucky to have the help of speaker and FPAN underwater archaeologist from the Southeast Regional Center, Dr. Kira Kaufmann. Here Kira leads our avocational archaeologists in the recording of and anchor that may date to the 18th century or earlier.

At the other end of the parking lot, avocational archaeologist Ron Marlar and Flagler College student and LAMP archaeological intern Adam Cripps take measurements on a 19th century anchor.

In addition to the two anchors, we brought a shipwreck artifact of our own. This ship timber, a frame, washed ashore not too far from this spot (did I mention that we were across the road from the beach? What a view!). Here, avocational diver and speaker Peggy Friedmann takes measurements under the direction of Dr. Dave Switzer.

The Symposium Shipwreck Artifact Recording Workshop Class of 2008! (Not pictured are Ron Marlar and Adam Cripps, who had just left for the GTM Research Reserve for lunch). After lunch back at the Reserve, we enjoyed another afternoon session of papers. But more fun was to come . . .

On Thursday evening, all Symposium participants enjoyed a great dinner reception at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. As promised, we had live music and grog in addition to dinner.

Live bluegrass music was provided by local band Palm Coast. These artists played for us at no cost other than food and drink, and they are fabulous!

One of our supporters, Friends of the GTM Research Reserve, hosted a table at the reception. It caught the eye of a little future archaeologist . . .

As LAMP Director, I took a few minutes to briefly thank everyone for attending, and give special thanks to our sponsors. These included our major sponsors–LAMP, the Lighthouse, the GTM Research Reserve, NOAA, FPAN, and the Florida DEP–and our other sponsors, including the Friends of the Reserve, Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting, the St. Augustine Archaeological Association, and the University Press of Florida. In addition, I made sure to thank all of the Lighthouse staff and volunteers who put in so much time to help make this conference such a success. There are too many to thank, but some who really stand out include Bob and Donna Stephens (volunteers who managed registration), Debe Thompson (Volunteer Coordinator who made everything happen), and Beau Phillips (who designed the program, fliers, and handled promotion).

Meanwhile, the tower was open late for those who wanted to check out the Fresnel lens close-up, and the best view of America’s oldest port at night.

Folks sure had a great time, and the grog continued to flow into the night! Here speaker Fritz Hanselmann, of Indiana University, his wife Lyndee, and Marty Healey of the GTM Research Reserve hang out at the base of the tower.

From left to right, my wife Amy Gilboy Meide, Jim Pritchard of Brockington, Django Pritchard, Christy Pritchard of FPAN, Nick McAuliffe of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association, and Kim Smith, recent graduate of East Carolina University and now with Brockington.

Here I am hanging out with Wendy Welsh, Conservator for the Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project (left), with Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum (right). Wendy took many of the pictures that appear on this blog, including most from the reception and boat cruise–thanks again, W2!

After helping Lighthouse staff clean up, the party moved into the LAMP office, where the grog still continued to flow. Marty Healey hangs out with Dr. Sam Turner, LAMP Director of Archaeology. The rest of the night’s pictures are not available for public consumption . . . but a grand time was had by all!

The following day was the last full day of presentations. Again we had great turnout, and got to hear some very interesting talks. At the end of the day we had a scheduled river cruise and side-scan sonar demonstration aboard the Victory III, a local tour boat run by an old St. Augustine Menorcan family, the Usinas. For three generations the Usina family has run scenic tours of St. Augustine waters. Depending on the season, the Victory III runs regularly scheduled 1 hour 15 minute scenic cruises four to six times a day. We highly recommend this experience for any visitor to the Oldest Port.

Symposium participants eagerly await boarding time on the city marina docks.

Once underway, folks get to relax and socialize. Here former LAMP intern and current UWF student Nicole Tumbleson hangs out with UWF student Irina Franklin and FSU student Mercedes Harrold.

We were all treated to some great views of our nation’s oldest port as it was meant to be seen, from the water. Keynote speaker Dave Moore observes the Castillo as we slowly cruise by.

The view is great from the top deck!

Meanwhile, on the bottom deck, a crowd is gathered around a large flatscreen monitor that is displaying a sonar image of the seafloor below our feet. LAMP has just purchased a new Klein 3900 side-scan sonar, and this is the first time we have ever put it into the water. This is Klein’s newest and highest-resolution model, and only 5 have been constructed to date.

As the image of the river-bottom scrolls by, I am on hand to interpret it and talk about this exciting technology to folks who have never seen it before. It is definitely a hit!

On the bow, speaker Dr. Sam Turner of LAMP chats with Dr. Ray Hayes of the Institute for Maritime History.

It has turned out to be a great evening for a cruise, despite the light rain we had earlier in the day.

This beautiful sunset was a grand finale for a fantastic conference! We hope to see you all next March!