Mission

The overall research objective of the Branch is to interpret the Navy's experience by applying the science of archaeology on the Navy's sunken ship and aircraft wrecks.

The Navy's policy towards these historic wrecks is to leave them undisturbed, thereby encouraging in situ preservation.

  • Sites that have reached chemical and physical equilibrium with their immediate underwater environment are subject to a substantially reduced deterioration rate. If disturbed, this deterioration rate accelerates and any recovered artifacts must undergo immediate conservation and long-term monitoring.
  • Sunken military craft are often considered war graves and therefore must be respected. They may also contain unexploded ordnance, other sensitive weapons systems, or environmental contaminants.

While the Command prefers non-intrusive, in situ research on sunken military craft, it recognizes that disturbance and/or artifact recovery may become necessary and has therefore instituted an applicable permitting program under the Sunken Military Craft act.

  • Site disturbance or artifact removal may be justified and necessary to protect the sunken military craft, to conduct research, or provide public education and information that is otherwise inaccessible.

The Underwater Archaeology Branch also conducts archaeological research on sunken US military craft on behalf of the US Navy. Through undertaking archaeological research, as well as encouraging external collaborations, the Branch has significantly contributed to the understanding of the Navy's and the nation?s underwater cultural heritage.

  • Non-intrusive surveys and wreck site documentation projects that have been performed by UAB include the 2002 survey for WWII wrecks off the coast of Normandy and the continuing search for Bonhomme Richard, flagship of John Paul Jones, in the North Sea.
  • UAB has also led in more extensive archaeological projects such as the recovery and subsequent study of the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley and the documentation and limited recovery of artifacts from shipwrecks of the Penobscot Expedition.

Underwater Archaeology

The overall research objective of the Branch is to interpret the Navy's experience by applying the science of archaeology on the Navy's sunken ship and aircraft wrecks.

The Navy's policy towards these historic wrecks is to leave them undisturbed, thereby encouraging in situ preservation.

  • Sites that have reached chemical and physical equilibrium with their immediate underwater environment are subject to a substantially reduced deterioration rate. If disturbed, this deterioration rate accelerates and any recovered artifacts must undergo immediate conservation and long-term monitoring.
  • Sunken military craft are often considered war graves and therefore must be respected. They may also contain unexploded ordnance, other sensitive weapons systems, or environmental contaminants.

While the Command prefers non-intrusive, in situ research on sunken military craft, it recognizes that disturbance and/or artifact recovery may become necessary and has therefore instituted an applicable permitting program under the Sunken Military Craft act.

  • Site disturbance or artifact removal may be justified and necessary to protect the sunken military craft, to conduct research, or provide public education and information that is otherwise inaccessible.

The UAB also conducts archaeological research on sunken US military craft on behalf of the US Navy. Through undertaking archaeological research, as well as encouraging external collaborations, the Branch has significantly contributed to the understanding of the Navy's and the nation's underwater cultural heritage.

  • Non-intrusive surveys and wreck site documentation projects that have been performed by UAB include the 2002 survey for WWII wrecks off the coast of Normandy and the continuing search for Bonhomme Richard, flagship of John Paul Jones, in the North Sea.
  • UAB has also led in more extensive archaeological projects such as the recovery and subsequent study of the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley and the documentation and limited recovery of artifacts from shipwrecks of the Penobscot Expedition.

Conservation & Curation

The UAB maintains a well-equipped Conservation Laboratory at the Washington Navy Yard which:

  • Applies conservation treatments and is the curation facility that maintains the US Navy's underwater archaeological artifact inventory.
  • Allows for the archaeological process to be brought to fruition and for the proper documentation, preservation, and study of submerged cultural resources.
  • Supervises an artifact loan program which allows for Navy-owned artifacts from submerged sites to be curated and displayed under the auspices of UAB at approved facilities nationally and internationally for the purposes of public education and academic research.

Public Education

An important objective shared by the NHHC and the UAB is public outreach and education. To this effect, the Branch:

  • Disseminates information, issues publications, and gives lectures to the Navy and the general public on underwater archaeology, conservation, history, and cultural resources management policy.
  • Maintains the aforementioned artifact loan program.
  • Offers regulated public access to the UAB Conservation Laboratory.
  • Staff archaeologists appear in a number of documentaries and other public media outlets.

 



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