Melissa Ashmore
East Carolina University 2007 Field School
in Underwater Archaeology

29 May 2007
By Melissa Ashmore

Today was the first day of our work in North Creek, which is about fifteen minutes to the east of Bath, NC.  Today started out much as any other day here; we loaded equipment into the van.  After this we picked up our trailer and the big boat, the Privateer, and headed on an hour long journey to the boat dock that we will be using for the duration of the next two weeks.  On the way there, we met Eric Diaddorio, from ECU’s Diving and Water Safety Office, who brought the dive barge.  These two vessels, along with the skiff we used in Washington Park, will all be used on the site.

The stem and sternpost of the site referred to as Kickin' bitch extend above the water.

The stem and sternpost of the site referred to as Kickin' bitch extend above the water. (large view)

After getting the boats into the water and loading the boats with our gear (which today consisted of primarily dive gear and tanks) we headed out to the middle of nowhere in search of our find.  In this case, we are working on a one masted bateau, which may be Helen C…or some other ship.  The truth is we don’t really know the name, but the locals refer to it as the Kickin’ Bitch.  There are several different stories that I’ve been told by various people as to how this ship got the name.  One is that a couple of young guys purchased it and before a storm, they were knocked into the water by the boom…repeatedly.  Another story says that when the ship was sinking it was rocking back and forth violently, sort of like a bucking bronco.  There are a few others, but I like these two the best.  This ship is located about five minutes from the dock in North Creek, which is a tributary of the Pamlico.

The crew working on the site referred to as Kickin' bitch.

The crew working on the site referred to as Kickin' bitch.

The site itself is in about one to feet of water (depending on the tide) and, under that, about one to three feet of mud.  While I did not anticipate this to be a problem, it turned out that I have an unnatural fear of the mud.  Once the mud got up to my knees, I panicked and HAD to get out of it.  I think I would have been alright after a while if in the process of getting back on the boat I hadn’t stepped into a hole where I sunk past my waist.  I almost climbed up the side of the boat in a moment of flight response.   Hopefully, now that I know what to expect, tomorrow things will go better for me.  Because of this, our fearless Calvin took my place, for which I was very thankful.

Three adult dolphins and a baby.

Three adult dolphins and a baby. (large view)

The objectives for the day were for Michelle’s team (Nadine and Jeremy) to lay the baseline and for Adam’s team (me (today Calvin) and Steve) to do a pre-disturbance survey of the site.  Because of the deep mud, it proved impossible to set up the baseline with the three-foot rebar that we’d brought with us; tomorrow we’ll have to bring the seven-foot fence posts that we have.  Because of this problem with the baseline, the survey today consisted of only four or five measurements.  I imagine that once the baseline is set tomorrow, we will conduct a more thorough survey. 

While the site is in an extremely remote area and is in a difficult area to work in because of the mud, snakes (we only saw one today), and other possible things that live there, we were reminded of how great working outside and on the water can be.  On our back, while on a ‘tour’ of the area, we were literally surrounded by a pod of dolphins.  There were at least ten of them, and two of them had little ones swimming next to them.  It was amazing!  Some of them came within only a few feet of the boat and they were playing in our wake.  It was by far the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and it seems the feeling was mutual to other members of the crew, apparent in the many oooo’s and ahhhh’s that were verbalized. 

After seeing the dolphins, we went on to another site that Larry wants to work on later in the week.  It is a buy-boat that is in an area with several other abandoned watercraft.  Larry is particularly interested in the structure of the buy-boat and thinks that a survey of it may help in Dave’s interpretation of the Washington Park vessel.

The buy-boat Dr. Larry Babits wants to survey.

The buy-boat Dr. Larry Babits wants to survey. (large view)

Once we got back to the dock we had to take all the gear off of the dive barge and hosed it down (we had transferred quite a bit of mud onto it).  The gear was put into the trailer which is to be left on the site for the duration.  While doing this, the funniest event of the day occurred.  Because the trailer was no longer hooked up to the van, it offered a wonderful opportunity to scare the life out of everybody.  We got one too many people in the back of it while loading the tanks and the whole trailer tipped back, opening the valve on one of the tanks in the process.  I had never seen so many people move so fast.  When a valve on a tank is turned on full, it is really loud and sounds like it is going to explode.  There had been about four or five people in the trailer when it happened and within about…ooohhh…half a second they were all out of the trailer and away from it, except for Steve (the dive safety officer) who was trying to close the valve of the tank.  We all ran, even those of us that weren’t in the trailer.  It was rather humorous…after the fact. 

After this happened, we headed back to Eller and then we all pretty much scattered and went home to prepare for another day in the field.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to work through my fear tomorrow, or this will make for a very long week.

Please feel free to contact us at with any comments, questions, or suggestions during the weeks to come.

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