Shipwrecks of Cape Cod: Marine Archaeology Expedition
New Program for Summer 2020!
It was April 6th, 1923 and the 18th amendment was just four years old. In the face of prohibition, rum-running vessels from Canada would wait, not far from Cape Cod's coastline, for cover of fog or darkness until American boats would load their illicit cargo and smuggle it to shore. But one such American ship, the John Dwight, a 107’ wood built steam freighter, never returned to shore. A New York Times article described the ship’s fate:
VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass., April 6 – “When a heavy fog which had prevailed for hours lifted today, the Cuttyhunk coast guards sighted a vessel about 150 feet long, apparently a steam trawler, flying what appeared to be distress signals. As they watched, the craft suddenly sank."
The next day the bodies of eight crew members were found floating in Vineyard Sound while the Captain remained missing. Adding to the mystery, another local steamer, The Dorchester, reported seeing the John Dwight before it sank, along with three men rowing a lifeboat to Naushon Island. Neither the men nor the Captain were found, though a lifeboat was later discovered on the island, dragged up on shore and hidden under bushes. A popular theory is that the Captain and some of the men vanished the crew and scuttled the ship in a sinister plot to steal the bootleg profits, though the mystery remains unsolved.
Fast forward nearly one hundred years and the John Dwight remains partially intact, its ghostly wreckage surrounded by countless rum and ale bottles strewn about the floor of Vineyard Sound, a mile from Nashawena Island, west of Woods Hole. In our summer 2019 program, "Shipwrecks of Cape Cod: Marine Archaeology Expedition," we intertwine technology, nature, human history, and detective work to educate children about the depth of history just below the surface of our local waters. With technology to open doors to the past, we aim to trigger imaginations, enhance curiosity, and inspire learning. We will utilize a portable and sophisticated remote operated vehicle (ROV) to help children explore the underwater world from the safety of our boat. The ROV, piloted remotely and capable of exploring in depths and conditions that a human diver cannot, live-streams high-definition video to a large computer screen where children have a front row seat as we perform our mission of underwater discovery and exploration.
Cape Cod is home to hundreds of shipwrecks with forgotten remains scattered on the ocean floor often just a mile or two from shore. Whether it is the mystery of the John Dwight, the wreck of the 282' Kershaw (sunk in a collision on a clear starry night just a mile from Oak Bluffs, the Kershaw is said to be among the most spectacular maritime events ever witnessed in New England), the remains of the Port Hunter with its deck gun in tact, or the countless wrecks and rich history along the shores of Chatham, children will take part in an expedition of learning and discovery.
Throughout our 4-day program, children will receive a basic introduction to underwater archaeology from a marine archaeologist, learn about local shipwrecks and the fascinating stories behind each sinking, engage in team mission planning, handle real shipwreck artifacts, apply detective skills, head to wreck sites by boat, learn the basics of underwater ROV technology and how an ROV works, and use an ROV to explore both shipwrecks and marine life beneath the ocean surface. Since each day's activities are held aboard boat, children will have ample time on the water and opportunities for fishing. Children should pack a box lunch during the first three days of the program. A dockside restaurant lunch is included on our final day, as well as a stop for ice cream.
Locations, Dates & Rates
Our marine archaeology program is open to boys and girls ages 11-13 and each session is limited to six (6) children. Each program is four days long, and our expedition team meets weekly (on Saturdays) from 8:30am to 1:30pm. Our summer 2020 program options are listed below:
Program 1: Each Saturday for four weeks, from August 1st - August 22nd - Falmouth
Program 2: Each Saturday for four weeks, from September 5th - September 26th - Falmouth
Tuition and Enrollment
Tuition for each program is $450. To enroll your child in one of our programs, please visit our enroll page.