After months of careful planning and preparation, the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), in conjunction with Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) and the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), initiated the second phase of the archaeological investigation of what is believed to be the wreck of USS Scorpion. Captained by US Navy hero Joshua Barney, Scorpion served as flagship in the famous Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which endeavored to defend Washington, D.C. from the British during the War of 1812. On August 21st, 1814, British forces chased the Flotilla up a narrow bend of the Patuxent River where Barney then evacuated his men and ordered the ships scuttled to prevent their capture. The wreck site was discovered by Donald Shomette and Ralph Eshelman in the late 1970s and they conducted an archaeologial investigation in 1980.
Starting on June 13th, the UAB team, along with MHT and MSHA, successfully relocated the wreck using precise coordinates via a GPS system and completed an underwater mapping process called “hydroprobing” which helped archaeologists find the orientation and position of the wreck beneath approximately six feet of river sediment and debris. MHT also drilled several core samples near the site to conduct sediment and riverbed stratification analysis. The hydroprobe and core sample data gathered this year is essential for the plans to construct a coffer dam around the site for the third and final phase of the project during the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration in 2012. The coffer dam will allow archaeologists to conduct a dry excavation of the wreck, and visitors to the site will be able to observe the process. This year, limited excavation of the site is expected to start soon after July 4th, so stay tuned for more USS Scorpion Project updates!