Maritime Archaeological Survey Team Inc.

Underwater archaeology chronicles moments in time

The Mercator in 1932 
Photo Jack Papes

By Shannon M. Nass - Post-Gazette

Before dives on known wrecks, divers research the vessels. Located on the grounds of the Great Lakes Historical Society in Vermilion, Ohio, is the Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center, a research facility that documents Lake Erie shipwrecks and offers maritime archaeology workshops.

It also serves as the headquarters for the MAST program (Maritime Archaeological Survey Team Inc.), which trains divers to survey shipwrecks.

"Most of what we do with MAST are straightforward, two-dimensional site plans," said Carrie Sowden, archaeological director at the research center.

"We're looking at how the ship sits on the bottom and mapping all of it out so we know exactly what it looks like sitting on the bottom of the lake."

MAST consists of 200 volunteers devoted to documenting and preserving Lake Erie shipwrecks. They focus on older sites that are more prone to degradation due to frequent visits by divers.

"Nobody's malicious or anything, but once you start having human intervention on a site, it will start to degrade over time," said Sowden. "You know, the little touch here, the sitting down there. We're trying to create a baseline so that we know what is there."