Jun 27

USS SCORPION Project: Phase II Begins!

Monday, June 27, 2011 9:41 AM


This bend of the Patuxent River near Upper Marlboro, MD (above) is where UAB archaeologists believe the remains of USS Scorpion, along with several other ships in the flotilla, have settled, virtually undisturbed for nearly 200 years.


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.

UAB archaeologist uses a hydroprobe to determine the location of the wreck beneath the sediment.


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! 

  • Dr. Kent Mountford

    I’ve folllowed the “Scorpion” saga since the wreck’s original discovery decades ago, plus the ongoing exhibit of her artifacts on display at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, MD.

    I also live “under the guns” of the Flotilla along St Leonard Creek, where the ebb and flow of battle passed my (late 19th c) home site.

    Must express surprise that neither of the original discoverers and investigators, Donald Schomette and Dr. Ralph Eshelman seem to be acknowledged or involved in the current project. Eshelman’s book with co-authors, is certainly a pertinent guidebook for the events of this war on the Chesapeake.

    Are we witnessing some small mindedness or personal agendas here?

    Dr. Kent Mountford
    Estuarine Ecologist and Environmental Historian
    c/o Cove Corporation, Lusby, MD 20657

    Monthly Bay History Columnist “Past as Prologue” for 14 years. Archived at: http://www.bayjournal.com