Dr. David C. Switzer, 1934-2012
Dr. David Switzer, professor emeritus at Plymouth State University, passed away this past weekend at his home in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Dr. Switzer was, and will always be, a true friend of each one of us here at LAMP. His warm smile and energy made his students and peers feel at ease during field work, lab work, or in the classroom. At the same time, he was constantly teaching, handing down knowledge in the manner of a true scholar. From his native Maine to the Falkland Islands, and even the Mediterranean, Dr. Switzer led expeditions that trained generations of today’s maritime archaeologists. He was a research associate/instructor here at LAMP but moreover a good friend and fellow scholar.

Dr. Switzer working with LAMP staff and students here at the Lighthouse.
We used to joke with Dr. Switzer about being a ‘true pioneer in the field’ but the humor was only in the fact that he once wore a Daniel Boone coonskin cap to a lecture after having been introduced as a ‘pioneer’. His wit and humor were reknown as was his ability to tackle tough and serious problems. We have all heard of the glory days of the old clipper ships but it was Dave Switzer who, in 1987, brought the bow section of the famous Snow Squall back to her home in Maine. He didn’t just bring it back from across the bay, he led an expedition to the Falkland Islands, almost 8,000 miles distant (thats 6,800 nautical miles, Dr. Switzer would have liked to point out.) The Falklands had just been ravaged by a war between Argentina and Great Britain and from the torn landscape of Port Stanley, Dr. Switzer’s team gently recorded and lifted the bow section of Snow Squall onto a freighter for repatration. Were it not for this, all we would ever have would be pictures and memories from this epic period of American shipping.
An expert on the 1779 Penobscot Expedition, Dr. Switzer’s work on the Defense was groundbreaking, a project that would undertake the first excavation of a shipwreck from the American Revolution. We always enjoyed his lectures here on that topic, and so many more. Dave was a constant feature here at the Lighthouse Museum and LAMP. He worked with our field schools to provide lectures, help students to adjust to the field, and to bring real context into what the history of our field has been. I can tell you that it is a real treat to have someone with the depth of background and expertise to work with. The stories he had for us about how the older generations of sidescan sonar worked, how survey was undertaken prior to GPS navigation, and the myriad other challenges that were met, and overcome, were inspiring to us all.
Dave worked with us here at LAMP since 2006, we would see him both during our field season and during the winter when he came to thaw out in the tropical sun. Always prepared with lectures to share, he packed our gallery many a time with an eager audience. He was one of our strongest advocates and for that we are forever grateful. Dave worked with many people and groups throughout his life, outside of being a professor of history for 39 years. He supported research and encouraged scholars to get out, to discover. We will all miss him.

Here’s to the wind in the rigging, singing his song.
Click HERE to read about some of Dr. Switzer’s involvement with LAMP.
Click here for Dr. Switzer’s obituary.