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Probably the most exciting thing that I have discovered as a shipwreck archaeologist was a bronze cannon on a shipwreck that was lost in 1686. And it was La Salle’s ship. So it was a French ship.

And when we were diving on the possible target, in the dark, we couldn’t see anything at all, but I came across an object. And kind of doing archaeology by braille, felt the entire length of the object and realized that it was a cannon. Being a bronze cannon, it was highly decorated. Once we pulled it from the sea, we could see things like the king’s crest, the admiral’s crest. And that kind of sealed the deal. It really identified the shipwreck, so that was a very exciting project.

The season after I made that discovery, I returned as part of the crew. And that shipwreck was so important to the history of the State of Texas that the legislature of the state found the funds to build a coffer dam around the ship. So that ship was completely encircled and we kind of part the sea, just like Moses. So the ship was cut off from the rest of the sea. We could pump out the seawater and we went out and did archaeology as if it was on land.

Rewards of the Job
It’s very personally rewarding to go out to sea with a hand-picked team and to face challenges and obstacles and to really have to work together as a team in order to accomplish our goals. Going out there and doing that and coming back with the data; learning about these shipwrecks, these time capsules of the past, is very rewarding.

Certainly, there’s nothing like being the first person in 300 years to touch a piece of history. To feel an object that was last seen centuries ago, that has not seen sunlight in all of these years. And to think about the personal stories that were onboard that vessel, the people that were onboard that vessel, it’s a great feeling. It’s a great connection. So I love going out there and doing the work and I love making the discoveries and learning about the past and getting that perspective from these people whose lives have come and gone and seeing what that can add to the lives around us, sharing that with other people certainly is also a great part of this job. So it’s a pretty rewarding job.

Public Benefit
Well, we like to think what we do is relevant to the public. And I think that it is. Polls show that people believe that history museums are worth funding, that people like to go to these museums, whether they’re on vacation or if it’s in their own community. Science and history museums, of course. So it is something that helps the quality of life for our communities. It’s something to do with your kids. And it’s certainly teaches us lessons. Either teaches us science and math or teaches us history, teaches us about those who came before us.


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