This is an interim report for the 1993 Maple Leaf Project field season. It follows two previous reports that together, provide a description and analysis for all work carried out on the site over the past decade (Cantelas 1992, 1993). This is the second year the East Carolina University Program in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology (ECU) has participated in the Project.
The 1993 investigation focused on two areas: the engineering spaces and the aft cargo hold. The ECU summer field school provided the manpower to clear and document the engineering spaces during four weeks in July. Work in this space was limited to the starboard side to provide continuity with the 1992 excavation on the starboard forward deck. A silt barrier was constructed around the work area to divert the river current and keep silt or debris from filling the excavation. Following the summer field school, St Johns Archaeological Expeditions, Inc. (SJAEI) volunteers helped complete several remaining tasks in the engineering space.
The investigation encountered one major setback due to late-19th-century demolition work. Large pieces of debris filling most of the area below the main deck level hampered excavation in the engineering spaces. Many large broken timbers also posed a safety risk to divers due to dangers of collapse. These obstacles and hazards limited excavation to the upper levels of the engine spaces. Regardless of the limitations, the investigation provided a great deal of information.
Supervised SJAEI volunteers conducted an excavation in the aft cargo hold over the course of the summer field season. Their work represents an alteration of the project research design that called for work to continue in the forward cargo hold (Cantelas 1992:10). Excavation in the forward cargo space in 1992 determined the hold and materials packed inside were severely damaged. The torpedo explosion that sank the Maple Leaf and subsequent salvage activity removed a considerable portion of the main deck over the cargo space. The opening exposed the interior to tidal currents over several years causing extensive damage (Cantelas 1993:41-42). Continuing work in this area would be difficult, time consuming, relatively unproductive and dangerous.
Time and funding budgeted for field work in 1993 was not sufficient to undertake a definitive excavation in the complex and damaged forward hold. Available resources were better utilized in an area with greater research potential. Past work in the aft cargo hold demonstrated the ship's structural elements and material packed inside were relatively undamaged. Altering the research design to investigate this space took advantage of the greater potential for data recovery with limited resources. This area holds a tremendous artifact collection pertinent to questions on material, social, economic, and technological aspects of the Civil War.
In addition to the archaeological excavation, a study of site formation processes continued in 1993. Two sediment core samples were taken at the site to determine deposition rates. The analysis will be completed in the near future as part of a master's thesis (Duncan 1994). Preparations were also made to recover water samples from the aft cargo hold in 1994. A lexan cover, equipped with sampling apparatus and temperature probes, was placed over the deck opening to seal the interior. The cover will keep contaminants out and provide undisturbed water samples.
Site investigations will resume in the spring of 1994 with the third and final planned ECU summer field school. Documentation will continue on the Maple Leaf's main deck, from the engine spaces to the stern on the starboard side. Several other areas of the ship warrant further work and will be completed by SJAEI volunteers. No excavation is planned for the cargo spaces in 1994.