Salt Cay archaeological expedition

Location: Unnamed Road, TKCA 1ZZ, Turks and Caicos Islands

Season: March 6, 2020 to March 16, 2020

Session Dates: March 6-16, 2020

Application Deadline: February 6, 2020

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

The Shipwreck Survey

Project Director:
Ruud Stelten, Ph.D., Director, The Shipwreck Survey; Joost Morsink, Ph.D., RPA, and Project Manager & West Indies Group Leader, Search Archaeology

Project Description:

Salt Cay is a tiny, off the beaten path island in the Turks & Caicos Islands. While nowadays it houses less than 100 people, in the 18th and 19th centuries the island was economically very important due to the production of high-quality salt. As a result, the island is littered with unexplored archaeological sites.

The Shipwreck Survey is organizing an archaeological expedition to this fascinating island, from March 6-16, 2020. As this trip is exploratory in nature, the group size is limited to just 5 participants.

We will be exploring and documenting archaeological sites on Salt Cay and adjacent islands, including the uninhabited island of Cotton Cay. In addition, we will be surveying and documenting shipwrecks and other archaeological sites in the surrounding waters. Participants will be completely immersed in the island’s history and archaeology.

The exact schedule and activities are dependent on weather and practical matters, but we plan to do the following:

  • Coring the historic salt pans on Salt Cay and Cotton Cay in order to make a vegetation reconstruction
  • Documenting archaeological sites on Salt Cay and Cotton Cay (including aerial mapping)
  • Detailed mapping of the wrecks of the HMS Endymion and the General Pershing, and surrounding areas
  • Detailed mapping of a wooden shipwreck off the North Beach
  • Survey of the historical anchorage area and maritime structures at the White House
  • Looking for new archaeological sites on land as well as under water at certain locations

The water activities can be divided into diving and snorkeling tasks, so this program is suitable for both certified divers and people who are not dive certified. All underwater archaeological research will be conducted in shallow water, therefore tasks can be divided between SCUBA divers and snorkelers.

Participants will have the opportunity to use drones for aerial surveys and underwater camera equipment for documenting submerged sites. Data processing will be done each day at the White House (see below).

In addition, we will also offer a whale watching trip by boat during which we may be able to snorkel with the whales. Early March is the peak of humpback whale season so we expect a lot of whale action!

The research questions and goals for this project can be found on the project website.

Total cost for the field school is $3,300. This includes the following: 10 nights accommodation on Salt Cay, Food and drinks (based on 3 meals per day), Transportation from Grand Turk to Salt Cay and back, Transportation on Salt Cay, All training, presentations, and workshops, All diving activities, Full dive equipment rental, All other activities, excursions, and park fees

Period(s) of Occupation: Prehistoric - Colonial (16th-19th centuries)

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 11 days

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: None

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation will be at the White House, a beautiful early 19th-century building on the island’s west coast. It is conveniently located within walking distance of both the northern and southern parts of town. It is an old building with a rich history, and therefore a unique place to stay. That also means that living conditions are not luxurious and some aspects are a bit basic. The house features an indoor and outdoor shower, two toilets, a fully-equipped kitchen, and we will try to arrange a wifi router. There are 3 bedrooms available to us, so 2 people per bedroom. The house has a very spacious patio that’s great to enjoy a cold beer and watch the sunset. Food will be provided for the duration of the field school. Breakfasts will consist of eggs, sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, and fruit. Lunches and dinners will be had at one of the restaurants on the island.

Contact Information:

Ruud Stelten

Phone: +31642311256

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