Peter Pepe of Pepe Productions interviewing LAMP Director Chuck Meide for the upcoming documentary “Search for the Jefferson Davis.”
You may have noticed that our LAMPosts blog updates have been somewhat rare of late. All of us at LAMP have been very busy lately, working round the clock to finish the writing of the First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project Final Report. Yesterday we took a brief break to work with the film crew from Pepe Productions, who last visited us in June 2009 to film our diving and research activities during the summer field school. They have been working on a documentary focusing on our ongoing search for the Confederate privateer and ex-slaver Jefferson Davis, wrecked in St. Augustine in 1861. I thought I’d give a quick update on the blog.

Peter and his colleague Joe “Zarr” Zarzynski, an archaeologist and Director of Bateaux Below in Lake George, New York, came down for a quick filming session. They interviewed myself and our Director of Archaeology, Dr. Sam Turner, mainly asking questions about what we now know about our mystery wreck, since we’ve had eight months to conduct analysis and come up with some conclusions. As is often the case, archaeology often creates new questions rather than answering all of the old ones!
We know that we have a medium-sized vessel, one that was quite stoutly-built, and that it dates most likely to the second half of the 19th century. More information is coming in all the time–we currently have copper alloy artifacts undergoing analysis at the Clemson Conservation Lab in Charleston, we will have wood samples being identified for species at University of West Florida, bone samples to be studied at Middle Tennessee State University, and ballast samples at the State Museum in Albany, New York. All of these studies will help provide clues to the origins and final voyage of this mystery vessel lost on our shores, which might, just might, prove to be the Jeff Davis.
Peter and Zarr have already left St. Augustine, and are now in Charleston conducting interviews with scientists at the Clemson Conservation Center. This laboratory, best known for its conservation and analysis of the confederate submarine Hunley, is using electron microscope technology to determine the exact chemical makeup of a series of fasteners (bolts, nails, spikes) from both the mystery ballast pile wreck and its neighboring steamship wreck. They will also get some footage of the facial reconstruction of the helmsman J.F. Carlson, who survived the wrecking of the Jeff Davis only to perish on the Hunley. The film crew will also visit the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum, where they can film a watch belonging to the captain of the Jeff Davis. Before heading back to New York, our film crew will also visit the birthplace of the Jefferson Davis, Baltimore, and get footage of the location where she was built in the Goodwin Shipyard in 1845.
If you haven’t seen the trailer for the upcoming documentary film, click below and enjoy. To read some more about the history of Jeff Davis, click here.