Authors: Zach Smith
Grade Level: 9-12
Subject Area: Earth Science
Standards Addressed: National Science Education Standards
Time Required: Three 45-minute class periods.
Period 1: Research shipwreck and local conditions.
Period 2: Chart tides, currents, and weather in the area.
Period 3: Present plan to class and compare plans between groups.
The overall goal for this lesson is for students to use real-time tide data to develop a plan for the best time to excavate a ship wreck.
Maritime salvage teams, treasure hunters, and archaeologists are often confronted with unidentified shipwrecks. While much can be learned from the study of the shipwreck site itself, important information can also be gleaned from linking the sunken vessel to the historical record. Maritime archaeologists make the link by comparing the observed characteristics of the shipwreck to the characteristics of ships known to have sunk in that vicinity. This combination of archival information and imagery can help produce a detailed picture of the vessel's physical construction and its activities, as well as offer insights into how and why it sank and if salvage operations are possible.
Prior to the beginning of salvage projects, archival research by examining books, newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, and paintings that document an areas maritime history. The information gathered from these sources formed the basis for a list of vessels wrecked in an area. Further historical research identified particular construction characteristics that would enable researchers to make a positive identification of the vessel once the correct wreck was explored and mapped. These characteristics included the steamship's length and breadth and its construction.
Many times stranded or disabled vessels require immediate rescue or salvage operations. Though rescue operations take place despite difficult conditions, salvage can often take place when conditions are favorable. Since many wrecks take place in areas where storms or hazards forced vessels onto shoals or shorelines, salvage operations rely on proper timing of tide, current, and weather.
Students will create a report that addresses all the criteria for an effective plan for predicting tides and excavating shipwrecks.
Computer access for students
Lesson Plan File:
(entire word document containing complete lesson plan and supporting attachments)
Download Here (pdf, 24)
Student Work Description:
A student's shipwreck excavation report.
Sample of Student Work: