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Shipwreck

August 21, 2007

While it seems at any given time that fleets of Nordhavns explore the far reaches of the world, one Nordhavn in particular is staying perfectly still in the waters of Rhode Island, earning her keep in a very exciting manner.


Emmy® Award winning film producer Sprague Theobald's Nordhavn 57, "Bagan", has been chartered by the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) to act as a floating production facility and administrative platform.  RIMAP is engaged in a multi-year study of the Revolutionary War shipwrecks in Rhode Island.  With support this year from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), RIMAP is continuing to locate and identify the 13 British transports sunk in Newport Harbour on August 5-9, 1778.  The British, who controlled Narragansett Bay at the time, scuttled these ships to blockade the city and to protect it from the threatening French fleet.


Study of the Revolutionary War transports is worthy in its own right, but RIMAP has found documentary evidence to prove that the "Lord Sandwich", which was among the 13 sunken transports, had been the "Endeavour" Bark that carried Captain James Cook on his first circumnavigation of the world.  The possibility that the "Endeavour" may be found has generated international interest in RIMAP's study of the Revolutionary War ships lost in Newport, and the Australian National Maritime Museum intermittently sends staff to join RIMAP in its search for Captain Cook's ship.


Historic maps and narrative descriptions give a good idea of where in Newport Harbour the transports were most likely sunk, but in the 225+ years since their loss, part of the area has been dredged, part is a mooring field, and part has been a large ship anchorage.  Although it's unlikely that all of the transports have survived such disturbance, RIMAP has located more than half of the fleet, increasing the chance that the "Endeavour" may be found.  
All that is left today of a Revolutionary War period ship sunk in Rhode Island waters is a pile of ballast stone that stands slightly proud off the bottom.  Remote sensing gear can generate information about such anomalies in the harbour, and with the 2007 NOAA grant, RIMAP chartered "Bagan" to support a side scan sonar survey made by Garry Kozak of L-3 Communications Klein Associates Inc., which specializes in underwater imaging systems.  Despite the interference of Tall Ships, commercial vessels, and various racing fleets during the continuous twelve hours of the July survey, "Bagan" conducted herself magnificently.  


Once the remote sensing was completed, RIMAP deployed archaeologically-trained SCUBA divers to determine which anomalies were geology, modern debris, or the sought-for ballast piles.  Finding the ballast piles was only the first step in the study, and now RIMAP has begun the labor-intense process of mapping the study area. "Bagan" continues her reliable and dependable support as Theobald documents the early stages of RIMAP's search and survey work.


Archival research has determined the size of each transport, where she was built, what troops she carried, whether or not she was burned when scuttled in Newport, and where she had traveled before coming to Rhode Island.  RIMAP's future underwater surveys will try to determine which ballast piles on the bottom of Newport Harbour match these features and conditions.  With luck and hard work RIMAP hopes to identify specific ship sites, including the "Lord Sandwich" ex-"Endeavour" Bark. Sprague Theobald and his Nordhavn 57, "Bagan", will follow and document this remarkable process.


To learn more about Sprague Theobald's projects, please visit his website at www.Hole-In-The-Wall-Productions.com

 

 

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