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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Shipwreck Weekend Sets Sail With Historic Lecture

The Texas A&M Anthropology Department will be hosting “Shipwreck Weekend,” an open house put on by nautical archaeology students, Saturday in the Anthropology and Scoates Hall buildings.

The event will include guest speakers Wendy Van Duivenvoorde and Arthur B. Cohn, activities for kids and opportunities for guests to explore the Anthropology building.

The keynote speaker, Arthur B. Cohn, will discuss Benedict Arnold’s gunboat, “Spitfire,” one of over 300 hundred historic shipwrecks found in Lake Champlain, Vt.

“[Cohn] has an interesting topic which relates to everybody no matter what time period you study,” said Rudi Vanzin, nautical archeology graduate student. 

As the co-founder of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Cohn has focused his career on preserving historic shipwrecks found in the lake. 

“The most amazing part is that this [ship] sank in really deep water and because it sank in deep water it is almost sitting perfectly upright, the mast is still in place [and] it is in such good condition,” said Carolyn Kennedy, nautical archeology graduate student. “It’s preserved it like it has been in a refrigerator basically.”

Although the sunken Revolutionary War boat is in great condition, present issues threaten the future of the historic find. 

“Lake Champlain has been troubled by an invasion of quagga mussels,” Kennedy said. “The Spitfire is now at risk of being completely coated in mussels.”

The invasive species has caused issues in other places and could eventually destroy the cultural treasure, Kennedy said. 

As part of his lecture, Cohn will address potential conservation plans for the boat.

“A lot of thought has been going in to what is the best way to preserve this shipwreck because up until this point it was well preserved where it was,” Kennedy said.

In addition to the speakers, Shipwreck Weekend will also include activities and tours of the various artifacts, equipment, and current research in the anthropology department.

With a variety of laboratories and innovations, Kennedy said visitors will see different real-life projects and technologies used by archaeologists worldwide. 

While nautical archaeology is a small component of the anthropology department, Shipwreck Weekend offers an insider perspective of the program. 

“It’s so nice to see people that are interested in what you do,” Vanzin said. “Its kind of an obscure branch of life.” 

Both students and professors look forward to showing the impact of their field.

“We are doing quite a lot of cool things that are not always accessible to the public,” Kennedy said.

“These projects last for years and years, “ said Kevin Crisman, professor of nautical archaeology and director of the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation. “The whole point of archaeology is to basically make discoveries about the past and share them with people.”

Crisman noted that studying ships helps connect the world and their use has been consistent throughout history.

“Ships have great stories to tell,” Crisman said. “A huge part of our modern world still moves by ships.”

Shipwreck Weekend will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. in Room 208 of Scoates Hall.

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