Sunday, November 29, 2009

Museum Day

This weekend was Museum Day, the annual celebration of the opening of the museum.

What a bust! There are 350 days of sunshine a year in the Turks and Caicos. But today is not one of of them. It was raining so hard this evening that we had to cancel our event at the last minute. But then we had to stay around for the five people who showed up.

Yesterday was the children's portion. It was also very overcast and rainy. We had nine kids show up. But when I asked one of them how it was going he said, "Me and these kids in heaven." There is nothing like one-to-one staff time!

The best part of the day was the pitch dark box slide we made all the way down the stairhall in the science building. Good ideas should always be repeated. We received a shipment of file cabinets this month and the boxes got their second use before being thrown away(which is part of my new sustainability platform: everything has to have at least two uses before becoming trash).

Do you remember the precedent for this children's activity? The box slide was part of a "wrecking" hunt activity (wrecking is the historic word for scavenging here). Children had to climb up the boxes, complete a task, and then slide back down. The third picture is Joseph coming down. This was as much fun for our staff, me included, as it was for the kids. It was really fun, and hilariously funny listening to everyone scream when they hit the slides in the dark.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


This Thursday was Thanksgiving. Or as it is known here, "American Thanksgiving." It is not a day off. The British don't celebrate the day.

In fact we had a grant application due and worked all day. My goal was to have the grant ap completed by 10:00AM but it was not submitted until about 5:30PM.

All day people asked me how Thanksgiving got started. In fact, it comes from several lines of text from a Puritan colonist who wrote about a celebration after the first harvest at Plymouth in 1621. In that year, over half the colonists had died. The ones who were left invited Indians to a meal to give thanks. At the celebration they ate both roasted turkey and venison. So, really thanksgiving was started by British colonists.

One of my staff thought that the Holiday was when the American colonists were starving and turkeys fell from heaven to save them. I kind of like that story better. Wasn't that an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati?

Tiffany and I went out with Tuvol to get a local Thanksgiving lunch of turkey, ham, roast beef, and peas and rice. Thursday evening we ate the Thanksgiving dinner at the Bohio with Bion and Coleen and their children (though they all got lobster). The Bohio was packed. I wished all the Canadians and Brits a happy not Thanksgiving. We tried to find a third place to get turkey Thursday night, but only managed to score some dessert over at the Manta House with Larry and Shannon.

Yesterday, Tiffany got sick. Last night I started getting up to run to the bathroom. Tiffany feels worse today. I am starting to not feel well at all. Something we ate? Likely something made with local water. Thanks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Button It!

I just finished editing the Winter issue of the Astrolabe. A week late. If you remember, that was last weekend's project. And if you are wondering why I have not written a blog this week, then you need to remember what last weekend's project was again.

The next issue of the Astrolabe will feature an article on the British regimental buttons found during the Ft. George archaeological survey. And though I try and not talk about museum work on this blog, this week we have been researching the regimental buttons from the collection. Every regiment of the British Royal army had their own pewter buttons, which were worn on the "redcoat." We found many buttons on Ft. George, but eleven of them represented a specific British regiment.

One particular button is marked in the center with "R.I." We spent four days this week searching on the internet to find a similar button that would indicate what regiment this button belonged to. This search held up the Astrolabe for most of the week, as determining this button became very important. Looking intensely through the collection I realized we had four of them (two of them were very deteriorated and at first they were not recognized). The only thing close to R.I. as far British regiments go was the Royal Irish, the 18th of Foot, but this did not make sense because nearly every regimental button has numbers on them.

After searching through hundreds of websites, Tiffany finally found a button which was for sale by a private collector. This button referenced both the RI and the 18. The smoking gun. The 18th of Foot, the Royal Irish Regiment, must have been on garrison duty at Ft. St. George while they were stationed in Jamaica sometime between 1805-1817. This pushes the dates of our fort occupation a little past the 1804 date we have been working with and provides a new avenue of research within a regiment that we did know was here. I thought this was about the coolest thing this week.

Hopefully this was not too boring. Would you have rather heard about the three stingrays we saw snorkeling on the wall yesterday? Now that has become boring. I am ready to do research again for a while.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Day Off?

I have had a seven day work week since October 10. This is the first weekend where I have not been in the field or at the museum. All I have to do is write a 2000 word article on British Royal military regimental buttons and finish a book review for Myths and Realities in Caribbean History.

On Saturday, I did not get up until 10:00am. I watched a movie. I tended my herbaceous plants. I swept the floors(the house has not been cleaned in weeks). I wrote a little.

I did not cook anything for the two weeks we were on Pine Cay, nor the week I have been on Provo. So, I spent a large part of the day yesterday making a lemon grass and ginger vegetable soup, thyme roasted potatoes, and Jack Daniel's original #7 BBQ chicken marinated in Cerveza (my herbs are doing well and I brought 10 bottles of sauces back from Provo).

Then, I watched the OSU game and more movies.

Today, I made steak and eggs for brunch (I also brought back 14 steaks). I washed all my sheets and comforter covers. I washed the slip covers on the chairs. Now I am going to watch football all day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I get Paid for

This week has been a melee of publicity and promotion for the conclusion of the Ft George project. Since I was three and my parents put me on a box to sing "My New Home" I have had to perform in front of people. I wonder if this is still the number one fear of most people? I love every minute of it. But, I have been very busy and have not been able to talk to Deneen as much as she needed. She reminded me of this tonight.

I am preaching my stump speech. 78% of all travelers visit cultural heritage sites. The preservation of historic sites is primarily a tourism issue. If you bulldoze and develop every one of your cultural heritage sites, you are supplying a product for less than one quarter of all travelers.

We had another article come out in the TCI Journal this week. "This was exactly the kind of publicity we were trying to get, Good job" was a message from one of our stakeholders. We did a presentation at Pine Cay on Saturday. We did a presentation for DECR and the Governor's staff on Grand Turk tonight. Tomorrow, we fly to Provo to give a presentation to DECR. Then it is off to Rotary to put in a plug for the Ft George project at their evening meeting.

Next week I have articles about Ft George and an issue of the Astrolabe due. After that I can relax, I will only have several hundred artifacts to catalog and put away.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly News

The Ft. George archaeological project has received good press coverage. Here is a link to the front page of our national newspaper with a picture of my big rear end.

You can view the archived article here at the TCI Weekly News website


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Poison Wood Stinks

I must have gotten a second exposure to Poison Wood. I have it much worse than before. Both arms are covered. I have it on my waist where I must have stuck my thumbs around my belt to pull my pants up. I have a small patch on my face where I must have scratched my chin with my glove.

When I was a child I had extremely bad reactions to poison ivy, which grows almost more than corn in Ohio. I remember summers where I was literally covered head to toe with poison ivy rash. I was trying to think of the last time I had it really bad.

One summer Jim Hughes and I got paid $50.00 to cut down a field of brush. We did this one afternoon with sickles. The next day we were both covered with poison ivy. I think that the doctor's visits to get cortisone shots cost more than we were paid.

Another time, Jim and I worked out this elaborate plan to sneak through the woods in the dark in order to get into the Holiday Drive-In without paying. The next two weeks spent trying not to scratch our poison ivy was not worth the $6 we did not pay.

This week does not even compare. Poison Wood itches sooooo bad. On a scale of 1-10 if poison ivy is an 8, then Poison Wood is a 12. The first two days you have a red rash of small bumps that itch like crazy. Then the rash develops into liquid filled boils for two days. Then the boils pop and turn into a second degree chemical burn. The the burns scab and hurt for another 7 days while they dry. Just as my first exposure began to scab and dry out I got the second exposure. I literally have a Poison Wood rash on top of my Poison Wood boils.

I have been so doped up on Benadryl that it has been hard to write at night. But this has been no excuse not to complete the archaeological survey. I will take consolation in that while beating through the woods getting Poison Wood all over my body, I found two new sites of domestic activity that had never been mapped before on Fort George Cay. These included the now famous "Poison Wood" site, and site X which was found on the second to last day.

We have completed the project and are just cleaning up and packing. I will write a wrap up blog in a couple days and post it here and on the museum blog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Found a Cannon Today

I found a cannon today. That seems pretty cool. How many other people found a cannon at work today?

Off of the north shore of Fort George there are cannons in the water. They are a snorkeling attraction. Three cannons are visible above the sand today. We know from a previous study that are five cannons in this area, very close together.

Thomas Brown wrote that he outfitted the battery at Ft. George with 16 cannons in the 1790s. In 1967, the British Directorate of Overseas Survey completed an Ordnance Survey Map which located six cannons on a hand map of the cay.

In July 2008, a magnetometer survey was completed around Ft. George Cay. The magnetometer is a survey instrument that records the magnetic field in a given area. It is used to locate underground iron objects. The results of the magnetometer survey included seven large iron “anomalies” on the north shore of Ft. George. They basically said there were seven cannons in the water. That means an extra cannon.

On the second day of the survey Robert and I located the five known cannons. At the end of last week we located the number six cannon. This cannon was sitting just a few inches under the sand with the cascabel toward the sea and the muzzle toward the beach.

Today, I found cannon number seven. This cannon has never been documented at Ft. George before today.

At the end of our day today, Robert and I hing aroudn Ft. George to do a little extra "water work." This means we swim aroudn looking for stuff. We calculating that the cannon would be around 50 meters south of the know cannons, based on the grids on the magnetometer survey map. I ran a measuring tape off of the existing cannons and marked an area at 64 meters. Then I began to swim up and down the beach with a metal detector. About forty five minute later we hit a very large iron artifact. I blew the sand from the cannon with a small SeaDoo (if you remember this is the personal propolsion device I learned to use a few weeks ago). A few minutes later there it was under about eight inches of sand.

The cannon sits upside down with the muzzle pointing back towards the other cannons. It is 4 foot eleven inches long. The muzzle in 3” in diameter. This would have been a 4 pounder. It was an amazing find at the end of a long day. By tomorrow the cannon will have been consumed by the sand again, but now we know that it exists. And it makes a good story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ft. George Blog

I should have mentioned this last week, but the Ft. George archaeology expedition has its own blog site at

You can read all the posts there and follow exactly what has been going on from a professional perspective.

Ft. George, Week One is Over

This is our survivor type shelter on Ft. George. Much like survivor, everyday we get fewer. We have gone from eight people in the field during the first week, down to four people this week. We have cut paths through the woods, uncovered a few foundation sites, and collected several diagnostic artifacts. This week, we need to document the extent of the fort that we have investigated.

I have been drawing foundations and elevations of the few features that are still a few stone courses high. Today, I uncovered what might be another foundation. Tomorrow I will sketch this in.

This is the first day since last Wednesday that I have not been doped up on Benadryl. My wrists have been covered with painful blisters, but these are now drying out. I put a long sleeve shirt on and got back into the bush this morning. Thank goodness the poison wood seems to be subsiding. I have tried to be a trooper, but it has really been stinky.

Everyday we get dropped off by boat on the beach and then we lug our gear up to our camp. A large part of the fort has eroded into the sea, so we have also been doing a lot of water work, both snorkeling around and with underwater metal detectors. We have located six of the seven cannons known to have been on the site. Some are visible under water, others are just under the sand. A couple days ago a very large Dolphin swam up next to us, about two feet away. It was attracted to the beeps of the metal detector underwater. I was facing the beach and had the headphones on. It about scared me to death.

OK, the work is very hot and wet. But the project is not all bad. We go over to Robert's house on Pine Cay every night for dinner. I have been out on his boat fishing a couple of times and snorkeling once in the late afternoons. He caught fish and then fixed some sushi dish as an appetiser almost every night last week. We have had yellow fin tuna sashimi, seared wahoo marinated in a soy onion sauce, skip jack sashimi, and then last night we had skip jack tar tar in a wasabi infused dashi sauce. Robert is quite the cook. This is very unfortunate, but I think I have actually gained weight this week.