J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Preserving the Somerset Digitally

The currents on Cape Cod have uncovered the wreck of H.M.S. Somerset, “about two miles east of the Race Point Beach ranger station in Provincetown,” according to the Cape Cod Times. The National Park Service is taking the opportunity to have the wreck scanned. As this Boston Globe article reported:

federal park officials are seizing the moment by having the wreck “digitally preserved,” using three-dimensional imaging technology.

“We know the wreck is going to disappear again under the sand, and it may not resurface again in our lifetimes,” said William P. Burke, the historian at the Cape Cod National Seashore, noting that the last time any part of the HMS Somerset III had been sighted was 37 years ago.
The technician doing the work above is from the Harry R. Feldman company. The Somerset timbers also appeared in 1885, and souvenir-hunters took away some pieces. Here’s hoping today’s more preservationist mindset can keep more of the ship intact.

TOMORROW: The Somerset’s place in the start of the Revolutionary War.


Isabelle said...

This small article is fascinating. Your follow up piece on the Somerset was thorough and highly educational. Why do they not excavate and extract the Somerset from the sand to study it further?

J. L. Bell said...

There probably isn’t much knowledge to be gained from excavating the Somerset. A shipwreck like the Titanic or Whydah preserved what was on the ship when it went down, thus creating a time capsule of life at sea. But after the Somerset ran aground, the state authorities stripped off as much useful stuff as they could get. Between that and the time and tide, the hull timbers are probably all that’s left.