Underwater archaeological expedition, St. Eustatius

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Location: Oranjestad, St. Eustatius, AN

Season: June 14, 2022 to June 28, 2022

Session Dates: June 14-28, 2022

Application Deadline: June 1, 2022

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

The Shipwreck Survey, St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research

Project Director:
Ruud Stelten, Director, The Shipwreck Survey

Project Description:

The Shipwreck Survey, in cooperation with the St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR), is organizing an underwater archaeological expedition on St. Eustatius in the Dutch Caribbean, from June 14 to 28, 2022.

St. Eustatius, a tiny island in the northeastern Caribbean, was the busiest port in the Americas in the late eighteenth century and played an instrumental role in supplying arms and ammunition to the rebels during the Revolutionary War. The island is believed to have the densest concentration of archaeological sites of any area of comparable size in the New World, and is dotted with the remains of sugar plantations, cemeteries, old warehouses, fortifications, and marine structures. The waters surrounding the island are home to an estimated 200 shipwreck sites. Nowadays St. Eustatius is relatively quiet and undeveloped. It has a population of some 3,500 people. There are no large resorts, casinos, night clubs, or crowds of tourists. Instead, the island is a hidden gem with friendly people, little to no crime, beautiful national parks, and a laid-back atmosphere.

The 2022 summer expedition builds on our successful 2019 program, during which we surveyed some of the more remote parts of the waters around St. Eustatius. It will focus on discovering and documenting unknown shipwrecks and other submerged archaeological sites through extensive underwater surveys. We will then document these using a variety of techniques. Documentary research will complement the field work and provide context to our findings.

Diving during the expedition will be truly ‘off the beaten path’; we will go to places that no one has ever been before and see things that no diver has ever seen. That also means we will be diving further offshore and in deeper waters – the diving will be a bit more advanced than during our regular field school. We therefore require participants to have at minimum an Advanced Open Water certification, 25 dives of experience and have dived within a year of the start of the program, and be certified to dive with Enriched Air (this is an easy 1-day course that can also be done on the island). You are more than welcome to sign up for the program if you do not yet possess the required dive experience and certifications, as long as you meet the requirements at the start of the program.

Participants will be completely immersed in Caribbean history and archaeology through various presentations, workshops, and site visits. Interested participants will have the opportunity to work on, and co-author, a publication on the research results. See for a complete list of all activities during this program.

The island of St. Eustatius is relatively quiet and undeveloped. There are no large resorts, casinos, night clubs, or crowds of tourists. Instead, the island is a hidden gem with friendly people, little to no crime, beautiful national parks, and a laid-back atmosphere. Getting to St. Eustatius is easy. There are several direct flights into St. Maarten (airport code SXM) from US and European cities. From St. Maarten, take a short 18-minute flight to St. Eustatius (airport code EUX) with Winair.

Period(s) of Occupation: Colonial period, 17th and 18th centuries

Caribbean, underwater, archaeology, maritime, marine, shipwrecks

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 14 days

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: Advanced Open Water Diver Enriched Air Diver 25 dives experience

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation will be at the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute, a spacious building in a quiet part of town. It features two bedrooms (bunk beds) and adjacent bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, office and laboratory facilities, living area, Wifi, daily maid, washing machine, and a large porch. Food will be provided for the duration of the project. Cost: Total cost for the field school program is $3,200. This includes 14 nights accommodation, 3 meals a day, all activities including diving and dive equipment rental (excluding mask and fins), marine park fee, airport pickup and drop off, and all transportation on island.

Contact Information:

Ruud Stelten

Road to English Quarter


St. Eustatius

Phone: 31642311256

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