USC students excavate Sea Pines shipwreck

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJuly 13, 2012 

A handful of students are working this weekend to uncover the mysteries of a shipwreck on a Hilton Head Island beach.

Brianna Blacklock, Don Davis and Bruce Orr are learning to excavate, measure and map shipwrecks in a three-day fieldwork course through the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

The students, who are all divers, say practicing those skills at the Hilton Head wreck has been rewarding. Orr, who writes about Charleston area folklore and history, said he's enjoyed seeing history firsthand.

"You read about ships being scuttled or beached or wrecked and abandoned," Orr said. "It's amazing to read something, but to be able to actually put your hands on something, it's incredible."

The old wooden boat was discovered along the beach in early 2011 by a Sea Pines resident. The wreckage is not far from the 18th tee at Harbor Town Golf Links.

Ashley Deming, a maritime archeologist with the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at USC, said not much is known about the wreck -- it's not even clear what era the boat is from, or if it is a military or merchant ship. What the students uncover during the course will help archeologists better understand the wreck, Deming said.

"Putting the actual numbers to paper is a good experience," Davis said of the course.

The course will teach students to map shipwrecks and relay that information to the institute.

Deming said there are hundreds of shipwrecks off South Carolina's coast.

"The majority of what we know about those came from information from divers," she said. "They can be our eyes and ears in the field."

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