On Monday night my wife Amy and I had to say goodbye to Noaa, the best friend and most faithful companion that anyone could ever ask for. Noaa had been a part of my life for almost fifteen years, and as an archaeologist’s dog he often had to live temporarily at a friend’s home while I was away in the field–always knowing I would return whether it was a week or a month–while many times he was able to accompany me, so that he was a waterdog familiar on board research vessels, at marine laboratories, in rivers, springs, and of course the sea. Our adventures took him places that no dog before him had been. Most notably, as the official mascot of the La Salle Shipwreck Project in Texas, he was the only dog in history to have walked on the seafloor fully seven miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
He will be sorely missed, not only by my family but by many archaeologists across the U.S. and abroad, and I wanted to take this chance to share a few memories and photos of this extraordinary friend.

Noaa, a black lab/chow mix, was born in north-central Florida around the start of 1994. He had been abandoned shortly after birth along with his brother, left in a cardboard box in the woods near Ginnie Springs, where one of the workers there came across him. I was on a FSU dive trip to the Springs, and we saw a sign at the dive shop offering free puppies, and the rest is history.

In addition to archaeology, Noaa enjoyed going for drives . . .

. . . and helping with the gardening.

But like all labs he loved the ocean and swimming. Here we are in Texas, swimming outside the cofferdam built around the wreck of La Salle’s ship La Belle.

Back on the state of Texas’ research vessel Anomaly. In his youth (this project took place in 1996-1997, when he was 2 and 3 years old) he had no problem scrambling from the water up the transom to get back on the boat.

The cofferdam was constructed to encase the ship, wrecked in 1686 and lying in about 15′ of water, so that archaeologists could travel to the site by boat, tie up, and then climb down a staircase so as to excavate the shipwreck as if it were on land. This made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, whether you were a human or dog. As stated before, he is the only dog we know of who has tread upon the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico.

These photos were taken after we had completely removed the ship’s artifacts and timbers from their resting place. At this point we were finished with the excavation and the cofferdam was allowed to slowly re-fill with water.

The cofferdam provided a great public archaeology opportunity, as boatloads of visitors could come tie up and look down to watch a shipwreck excavation that would otherwise be inaccessible to non-divers. Here Noaa is on our research vessel greeting a tourboat.

A group photo with some of the Belle’s archaeological crewmembers.

Still frisky in his old age, at play with Amy in our last house in Williamsburg.
Having lived 14 years and 9 1/2 months, Noaa had a long, fulfilling life and had lots of adventures on the way to that ripe old age. He lived in Tallahassee, the Florida Keys, Palacios, Texas, Williamsburg, Virginia, and finally in America’s oldest port, St. Augustine. He participated in archaeological projects, enjoyed legendary road trips, and marched in anti-war protests. He could escape from any fence, no matter how high, and once even made it to the top of a roof so that he could have the best view in town (fortunately he was too old for this kind of thing once we were associated with the Lighthouse–if any dog could make it up to the roof of the tower, it would be this one!) He was uncannily smart and had a heart of gold, a fierce guard dog but a gentle soul. He had nothing but love for his family and his extensive extended family of friends across the U.S. I know lots of folks in the archaeological community, and many other friends and family, will miss him. We sure do.

We invite anyone who has a good Noaa story or memory or comment to post it below to share with all of us. There are lots of good Noaa stories out there . . . he sure will be missed.