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Archaeologists excavate suspected War of 1812 vessel

Ship was scuttled in Patuxent to keep it out of British hands

August 10, 2010|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Rodney Little, director of the historical trust, said the Scorpion — if that is in fact what it is — could turn out to be the best-preserved wooden ship ever found in Maryland waters. He said the vessel was sunk quickly — without much opportunity to remove objects that would now be valued artifacts — and silted over within a few years by a series of storms. The silt, he said, has acted as a preservative.

"What we have here is a vessel that appears not to have collapsed. Its structural integrity appears to be reasonably intact," he said. Little said the funding for future work isn't 100 percent certain but added that the team has "fairly strong" commitments of about $4 million — enough to pay for most of the work being planned right now.

Schablitsky said the investment in archeology could pay off by generating tourism as people visit the excavation site.

To excavate the wreck, Schablitsky said, the team will need to install a device known as a coffer dam, which would section off part of the roughly 10-foot-deep river and pump out the water to expose the bottom. Her hope is that by 2012, the team will be able to erect viewing platforms from which visitors can observe the work being done within the confines of the coffer dam.

For now, Schablitsky said, there are no plans to raise the ship because the money is not available to conserve it — a venture she estimated would cost $7 million. Like Shomette and Eshelman before them, the Scorpion team may have to recover what they can and move on.

"Sometimes you have to leave something for the future," she said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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