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SHIPWRECK DIVING  Shipwreck Research
The complete Diver's guide to the skills, sources and techniques of shipwreck research.
     

 

 

 

   Capt. Dan Berg's Wreck Valley Collection   

 

SHIPWRECK RESEARCH
By Capt. Dan Berg


Wreck research, or the ability to find out pertinent accurate information on a shipwreck of interest, is an important part of wreck diving. It's nice to tell someone that you dove a paddle wheel steamship, but it's downright impressive to show them a historical photo and casually mention the exact date and cause of her sinking.  Wreck research can also tie into finding more artifacts or identifying unknown shipwrecks.

There are many sources of information available to the sport diver, depending on the type of wreck and date of her sinking. These range from the knowledge of local fisherman to articles, books and primary source material.  Some are more appropriate than others.  My basic rule is to take the "easiest path" approach to research. For example, most divers will not want to travel to Washington, D.C., to the National Archives and spend days digging through their card files when a letter can get the same, or sometimes better results. Granted the serious experienced researcher may get more information in Washington, but, in most cases, the pertinent historical information is readily available by mail.

Obtaining the ship's name and approximate date of her sinking are the starting points of most research projects.  The ship's name has been found by divers recovering her bell, or capstan cover, or the wreck may be known by a certain name, but her history may never have been traced. 

I usually start my research by writing to one or more of the local marine museums.  If the wreck is a Naval vessel, I also write to the Navy. If it's a Coast Guard vessel, I'll write to the Coast Guard. If the wreck is a foreign ship, I'll try writing to a marine museum in that country, or I'll hire a researcher overseas to assist in the search for information. While waiting for them to reply, I pay a visit to a nearby library that carries THE NEW YORK TIMES or any local paper on microfilm.  THE NEW YORK TIMES is a valuable source of information for the late 1850's and early 1900's.  Almost all major shipwrecks are listed on the newspaper's front page or under titles such as marine casualties, explosions, disasters, or shipping.  Once at the library, the search can go in either of two directions. If I know the actual date of sinking, I simply ask for the current microfilm reel and search by page on that date. If the exact date of sinking is unknown, I refer to the index volumes.

These volumes area little confusing, but contain a wealth of information.  Wrecks can actually be found under a variety of sub-titles such as explosions, marine disasters, shipping, etc.  Each year they mat be listed under a different title, so you must scan all possible subtitles in each volume to find where they have listed shipwrecks in that volume. Once the wreck in question is found, the index gives you the date, page number and column number. This can then be easily found on microfilm. Photocopies can be made of all pertinent pages.  Be sure to scan the following day's paper for continuous coverage. 

The third source is articles that have been written in either diving or fishing related magazines.  These seem even more valuable when you consider that someone else has already gone through the trouble of doing the research.  Don't forget to look in any books that may have been written on the particular subject you are studying. There are many well researched books with invaluable information available at local libraries or through dive shops. Last, but not least, talk to divers who frequent the area. Diver learned knowledge is vital to all research projects.  They can give you valuable information such as depth, condition, layout, aquatic life, types of artifacts and currents.

By the time you're done, I'm sure you will have a folder full of photo copies from different sources.  No doubt you will also have conflicting information as to the time, date and number of casualties. What I've found to be the causes are typing errors from the original articles printed about the wreck.  These articles with bad information become a source of information for the next author who is writing on the same subject, and thus creates a vicious cycle.  As a researcher, you are responsible to be as accurate as possible.  Usually going back to your earliest source for verifying information assures accuracy. If available, check out any conflicting information by going back to the original Coast Guard  or Life Saving Service reports. These are available at some marine museums.

Once finished, share your knowledge with the sport divers in your area.  It will make wreck diving more rewarding and enjoyable for all.

SOURCES OF SHIPWRECK INFORMATION

Library of Congress
Geography and Map Division
Washington, DC20540 

Mariners Museum Library
Newport News, VI23606

Maritime Administration
Division of Reserve Fleet
Fleet Disposal Branch
Department of Commerce Building
Washington  DC 20230

National Archives and Records Service
Attention: NCRD
8th and Pennsylvania Ave, MW
General Administration
Washington  DC 20408

National Maritime Museum
Porter Shaw Library
Foot of Polk Street
San Francisco, CA94109

National Ocean Service
Hydrographic Surveys Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard
Rockville, MD20852

Naval Historical Center (SH)
Building 220-2
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, DC20374

Peabody Museum of Salem
Phillips Library
East India Square
Salem, MA 01970

Philadelphia Maritime Museum Library
321 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA19106

Smithsonian Institution
Museum of American History
Washington, DC20560

Steamship Historical Society of America
University of Baltimore Library
1420 Maryland Ave
Baltimore  MD

South Street Seaport Museum
207 Front Street
New York, NY 10038

Texas Antiquities Committee
Box 12276
Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

GREAT LAKES

Burton Historical Collection
Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48202

Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Great Lakes Maritime Institute
Belle Isle
Detroit, MI 48207

Great Lakes Charts
630 Federal Building
U.S. Courthouse
Detroit  MI 48226

Great Lakes Historical Society
480 Main Street
Vermilion, OH44089


BERMUDA

Bermuda Maritime Museum
Po Box MA 273
Mangrove Bay, Bermuda MA BX

CANADA

Canadian Hydrographic Service
Surveys and Mapping Branch
No 8 Temporary Building
Ottawa Ontario Canada

Wheelhouse Maritime Museum
222 Cumberland Street
Ottawa 2,
Ontario, Canada,K1N 7H5

Public Archives of Canada
Trade and Communications Records Center
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Canada,K1A ON3

ENGLAND

Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Rd
London, England,SE1 6HZ

National Maritime Museum
Greenwich
London, England,SE1 9NF

Cunard Museum
University of Liverpool
Po Box 147
Liverpool, England, L69 3BX

SPAIN

Archives Of The Indies
Seville, Spain

Museo Naval
Madrid, Spain

Museo National
Madrid, Spain

 
The Shipwreck Diving E-Book  Instant Downloadable E-Book 

Shipwreck Diving, by Capt. Dan Berg is a complete how to book about the sport of wreck diving. This book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs.

 
 

   
 
 
 
 

Shipwreck Diving ebook
The complete diver's guide to mastering the skills of shipwreck diving.

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6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file


Shipwreck Diving is a complete how to ebook about the sport of wreck diving. This downloadable PDF e-book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs. Daniel Berg, a noted wreck diver, instructor and author of ten shipwrecks related books, describes all the basics of wreck diving. Topics include everything from equipment modifications, communication, and wreck penetration to artifact preservation. Dan also tells how to navigate on a wreck and be able to return to the anchor line after the dive. Why some divers find more artifacts and explains how to catch lobsters. Shipwreck Diving also covers such diverse topics as shipwreck research, photography, spear fishing and how to use an underwater metal detector. This exciting book tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Shipwreck divers of all caliber will find Shipwreck Diving informative, rewarding and entertaining

Check out Capt. Dan's other shipwreck and Diving eBooks

 

 

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All photographs, sketches, images and text

Copyright Capt. Dan Berg / Aqua Explorers Inc

2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510
E-Mail Wreckvalle@aol.com

 
 
 
 
 
   


 
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