IMH Supports ECU Graduate Student with Aerial Survey of Maine Shipwreck

In late October 2015, Stefan Claesson assisted Jennifer Jones, a PhD candidate in the Coastal Resources Management program at East Carolina University (ECU), with aerial documentation of the wreck of Howard W. Middleton. This three-masted schooner went aground in Scarborough, Maine, in 1897 laden with coal.

The purpose of Jen’s dissertation at ECU is to conduct a comparative analysis of coastal shipwreck sites along the eastern seaboard of the US in order to facilitate discussion of short- and long-term management strategies for their preservation. Her research will look primarily at the archaeological remains of ships in the beach zone that are periodically exposed and reburied, they vary between being both visible and frequently forgotten features of the coastal landscape. Because shipwrecks in the beach zone are highly susceptible to environmental and human impacts, there are numerous challenges to protect and manage these types of resources. Although little can be done to prevent natural coastal processes, a better understanding of how they affect beach zone shipwrecks will allow for better decision-making and resource protection. At the same time, an understanding of values and public attitudes toward beached wrecks can assess who cares and what is important about these resources, and allow for the development of appropriate and innovative management strategies.

The wreck of Howard W. Middleton, provides an excellent candidate for her study, in that it is well-known within the local community, is visible to the beach-going public during low tides, and is affected by a variety of dynamic coastal processes. Jen and I captured a number of perspective aerial images to get a better understanding of the wreck’s setting on the beach. We also collected high-resolution overhead images of the wreck site, which were then assembled into a photomosaic.

While in the field, sub-decimeter GPS positions were taken on numerous points of the wreck site. These points were then used to rubber-sheet the mosaic, which can now be used as a relatively accurate and measurable site plan. Another benefit of this baseline documentation is that future flights along the same paths and image locations could be used to measure and document changes or impacts to the site in the future. For example, how might the wreck be affected by construction of nearby seawalls, jetties, or breakwaters? Or, how might the wreck be impacted by coastal storms and sea-level rise? Should it be documented and information recovered before it is lost or damaged? These are some questions that Jen will be working to address in her study.

Please contact Jen Jones if you would like to learn more about her ongoing research and project.