Coal is cool: archaeological implications of Monitor’s cannon boring project

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The archaeological conservators boring one of the two Dahlgren guns. 

The Conservation team recently bored USS Monitor’s 2 XI-inch Dahlgren cannons. This was a huge step in the objects’ treatment. It came from a need, but also required the right expertise, a TON of planning, donor funding, and specially crafted parts to make it happen. This task was completed for absolutely no archaeological reason. It needed to happen to conserve the artifacts and, therefore, it happened, but that doesn’t mean that archaeological interpretation didn’t benefit from the project.

So, here is my tale of why coal is cool…

To accomplish “archaeological investigation” of the concretions which came out of the guns’ bores, we set up a screening station at which the screeners – me, and the poor fools I tricked into helping me (our CEO Howard, our intern Christy, and our volunteer Heidi) – broke up the concretion into smaller bits of concretion until it fit through the screen and we could say with fair certainty that there were no artifacts left inside. This is a standard archaeological practice called sifting. What is maybe unique about our situation, is that since everything belongs to NOAA, we don’t get rid of the dirt and rock after its sifted, we bury it and save it in case there are techniques that it will be useful for in the future. No, I won’t tell you where we bury it. Actually, even I don’t know where, so I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.   Read more

Aeronautical Engineer and #mariner

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“It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane.” “It’s superm–” “No, really y’all, it’s a weird plane.”

Frederick K. Kirsten

“Egg-Beater Wing Plane Imitates…Eagle” claimed Modern Mechanics in 1934. Yes, you read that correctly.

As early as 1921, German-American inventor Frederick K. Kirsten (1885-1953)  was working on a wingless, rudderless airplane design. What does that even look like, you ask? Like this:   Read more

Let’s talk about the Ocean…of Plastics, clean-up efforts, & how to help

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Poster (by Stamatis Kardaris)

By now, you may be used to reading humorous stories for our #iamaMariner blog series, but this time, we wanted to talk about something a little more serious, and quite important. Why is this topic important to us as a maritime museum, you ask? Well, we are all connected to the water, and the state of our waterways plays a critical role in how we interact with this amazing and powerful resource. So, let’s get a little serious for now, and we’ll get back to the funny stories next time.

Fact vs. Myth

By now you’ve probably heard about the plastic island in the Pacific. Between the current push to recycle, sea turtles being classified as endangered, and most recently the fight against plastic straws, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been in all sorts of news and media. Not ringing a bell? Check out more about it here.    Read more