Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary

Scuba diving volunteers discover underwater archeology


By Alex Wilson - VCR Reporter Online

A dedicated group of volunteer scuba divers employ their expertise surveying underwater archeology in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary.

Coastal Maritime Archeology Resources members spend about a week living aboard research vessels twice a year, to measure and map shipwrecks, sunken airplanes and archeological sites scattered on the ocean floor.

CMAR Director of Operations Patrick Smith says there’s nothing quite like seeing a shipwreck for the first time. “It’s indescribable. There’s excitement, maybe a little bit of trepidation,” says Smith.

“There’s that wonderful feeling of breaching the unknown. There’s the anticipation of seeing something that nobody has seen for scores of years, or maybe hundreds of years.”

Smith says diving on shipwrecks evokes thoughts about the people who sailed on the historic vessels and sometimes perished aboard them.

“Each shipwreck is unique. They are a snapshot of that period of time, and they become a time capsule of that period of time,” says Smith.

“A shipwreck goes down, and it freezes that moment. It freezes all aspects of the human environment. What the people were eating and wearing. You can tell what their technology was.