Cathryn R. Newton's infatuation with shipwrecks set sail during her teen years -- as a member of her father's research team that in 1973 discovered the wreckage of the USS Monitor, a Civil War icon, off the coast of North Carolina.
Thirty-six years later, Newton has completed a database of more than 2,000 shipwrecks along the Southeastern coast of the United States. Newton, a dean emerita from Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences, unveiled the database this month in a lecture at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.
"It has potential for a radical re-envisioning of what can be done with nautical archaeology," Newton said of the searchable database that details 2,038 wrecks dating from 1526. "It shifts what we know about shipwrecks and how we know it."
The database includes ship names, types, sizes and locations of the vessels, sinking dates, cargo information, passengers, departure dates and intended destinations.
It is a collaboration of scientific and cultural information about the ill-fated vessels. The information was entered and re-checked by research assistants at Syracuse University, where Newton still teaches.