The past few years of research by The Shipwreck Survey have yielded some very exciting results. Much of our work has taken place on St. Eustatius, a small island in the northeastern Caribbean.
St. Eustatius was one of the busiest ports in the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. Over 3,000 ships dropped anchor in its roadstead annually to trade goods from every corner of the globe. Commerce on the island was facilitated by some 200 warehouses along its leeward shore. As sea levels rise and beaches erode at an alarming rate, a number of warehouse ruins are now submerged. In 2019, we mapped and documented these sites in detail in order to ensure their proper management and preservation. In some cases, it was possible to link certain remains to buildings pictured on historical drawings of the island.
In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria stirred up the sea floor around St. Eustatius, thereby exposing a previously unknown shipwreck. While its wooden hull had already been eaten by teredo worms, the presence of hundreds of ballast bricks and countless spikes and fasteners were clear indicators of a shipwreck site. Many objects used on board, such as wine bottles, cutlery, ceramic plates and cups, and even a cannon, were found scattered across the site. The wreck was carefully mapped during our field schools and several dozen artifacts recovered and conserved with the help of numerous of students and volunteers. The artifacts and historical records indicate that this ship sank in the mid-eighteenth century during a hurricane and was most likely trading Caribbean produce such as sugar and rum.