Underwater Archaeology Workshop

I recently attended a workshop in Underwater Archaeology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia with my Boss and Colleague. The workshop was hosted by the Nova Scotia Archaeology Society. They were happy to have another Atlantic Province in attendance (unfortunately no one from New Brunswick or Newfoundland was able to attend). Underwater archaeology is not an area I am familiar with, so it was a valuable learning experience.

Despite the fact that Prince Edward Island is, indeed an island, surrounded by water, very little underwater archaeological work has been done here. Our mainland neighbour on the other hand, has had much more extensive experience in the field owing in large part to Nova Scotia’s long, and infamous history with shipwrecks and treasure hunters.

I soaked up a lot of info by listening to the presentations and groups discussions about the types of underwater archaeological work being done in Nova Scotia, elsewhere in Canada, and beyond. In turn, we were able to contribute to discussion and bring a P.E.I. perspective to the table. Hot topics included Nova Scotia’s Treasure Trove Act (the repeal of which is soon to be complete), and how to educate and spread awareness about underwater sites to divers and public.

I think there is great potential on the Island for underwater archaeological projects in the future, pending interest and funding. The waters surrounding the island are likely ripe with submerged sites. There were thousands of ships wrecked off the coasts of P.E.I. and due to high rates of erosion much of P.E.I.’s archaeological sites are already under water. I would usually say that the sites have been “lost to the water”, but now I will re-think that phrase, perhaps not all is lost…

The Yankee Gale, 1851. By George Thresher. Oil on canvas. Collection of CCAG.

Painting depicting the “Yankee Gale” of 1851 a terrible storm that ripped through the area taking out upwards of 100 ships, and 150 plus lives (many of whom were part of an American fishing fleet from New England, hence the gale’s name).

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