Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teens Tackle Shipwreck Divers Envision Underwater Preserve

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teens Tackle Shipwreck Divers Envision Underwater Preserve

Article excerpt

A group of high school students may help unravel the mystery of a 19th-century steamship sunk off St. Augustine when they begin Friday to research the wreck, hoping to turn it into North Florida's first underwater archaeological preserve.

Guided by divers from Southern Oceans Archaeological Research Inc., the St. Augustine High School students will map the wreck's 13-foot-tall steam engine and hull pieces, then try to identify it. They will also help design an artifact display for the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, which is less than a mile from where the steamship lies 20 feet underwater.

The wreck is one of two uncovered by the company's archaeologists in a never-before-researched graveyard of historic ships off St. Augustine's shores. The students, from teacher Phil Stuman's marine science class, say they can't wait to see it.

"I am stoked," said Joe Friedman, 17, who dives on the site Friday. "I can't wait to see this thing. I have seen the artifacts, and it is going to be wild."

"All of us who are here are very excited to find out what it is, where it came from and when it sunk," said classmate Tiffany Parker, 19. "We don't really care that we are doing grunt work because it is all very exciting for us."

There are five underwater archaeological preserves in Florida, off Panama City, Pompano Beach, Pensacola, Fort Pierce and Indian Key. But while those were set up with the help of dive clubs or archaeologists, the St. Augustine effort is the first time high school-age divers have participated in a research project like this, said state underwater archaeologist Della Scott.

"This will be a new thing for the preserve system," she said. "We haven't worked with kids this young before, but it seems like a really vital program and I wish I had had that in high school. I would have been all over it."

Two Southern Oceans Archaeological Research archaeologists, John W. Morris and Marianne Franklin, conducted the first underwater wreck survey off St. …

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