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Abandoned Shipwreck Act Guidelines

Part II. Guidelines

I. Establishing Volunteer Programs

Using sport diver and non-diver volunteers in shipwreck management activities can be an effective, efficient, and economical means to discover, document, study, recover, and protect publicly-owned shipwrecks. Establishing organized volunteer programs that include sport divers and other interested parties in shipwreck management activities also can enhance and nurture existing partnerships among sport divers, underwater archeologists, maritime historians, States, and Federal agencies.

The following guidelines are offered to assist the States and Federal agencies in establishing volunteer programs.

Guideline 1: Use volunteers in shipwreck projects.

Dive clubs, dive shops, dive boat operators, and individual sport divers frequently are willing to volunteer their diving skills or donate the use of their vessels or equipment to help State and Federal agencies locate, identify, evaluate, map, photograph, excavate, and protect shipwrecks. Non-divers who have an interest in maritime history and shipwrecks also often are willing to volunteer their skills to help State and Federal agencies conduct archival research and conserve artifacts and other materials recovered from shipwrecks. States and Federal agencies should use such volunteers in carrying out shipwreck projects.

Guideline 2: Maintain lists of volunteers.

Lists of persons (diver and non-diver), dive clubs, and other associations and organizations that have indicated an interest in volunteering their services and equipment in shipwreck survey, mapping, and research projects should be assembled and maintained. The lists should indicate areas of interest (such as archival research, mapping or photography) and skill, noting whether those persons who are sport divers are certified in SCUBA, have any previous shipwreck project experience, or have completed any standardized diver specialty certification courses (such as advanced SCUBA, wreck diving, research diving, search and recovery, underwater photography, and basic underwater archeological methods). When evaluating a volunteer's skills, avocational experience and training courses completed out-of-State should be recognized.

Guideline 3: Distribute information on shipwreck projects to interested parties.

Information on proposed shipwreck projects routinely should be distributed to sport divers, dive clubs, dive shops, dive boat operators, maritime historical societies, and other businesses, organizations and persons who may be interested in volunteering their services or donating the use of their vessels or equipment for shipwreck projects. Interested parties should be encouraged to participate.

Guideline 4: Ensure that volunteers are properly trained and supervised.

At a minimum, sport divers who volunteer to work on shipwreck projects should be certified in SCUBA. Sport diver volunteers should be encouraged to complete standardized diver specialty certification courses (like the ones listed above in Guideline 2). However, completing such coursework should not be necessary to participate in shipwreck projects. Diver and non-diver volunteers should be properly supervised by qualified professionals appropriate to the nature of the work being performed (e.g., underwater archeologists should supervise volunteers who are participating in mapping and excavation projects; nautical conservators should supervise volunteers who are assisting in the conservation of recovered artifacts).

Guideline 5: Cooperate with the private sector in designing and teaching archeological methods specialty courses for sport divers.

Underwater archeologists, maritime historians, and education professionals should cooperate with professional diving organizations (such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and the National Association of Underwater Instructors) and other educational and scientific organizations in designing and teaching standardized diver specialty certificate courses in underwater archeological methods. Such courses should provide basic training in how to research, locate, record, and report shipwrecks. Introductory courses should provide background in archival research, survey methods, site mapping, illustration, photography, diagnostic measurement skills, and standard vessel architecture. In addition, they should teach divers non-destructive, preservation oriented behavior and describe responsibilities under State and Federal laws and international law principles and treaties. Advanced courses should provide training in excavation techniques, artifact identification and conservation, and preparation of nominations of historically significant shipwrecks to the National Register of Historic Places.

Guideline 6: Rely on private sector SCUBA and diver specialty training programs.

In lieu of developing government operated SCUBA and diver specialty training programs, professional diving, educational and scientific organizations that teach and certify divers in SCUBA, wreck diving, research diving, underwater photography, and basic underwater archeological methods should be relied upon to train sport divers in such techniques. Where such courses currently are not available, those organizations should be encouraged to provide certified instructors to offer such courses. Organizations also should be encouraged to produce manuals, for use by sport divers, that contain information from the specialty courses.

Guideline 7: Recognize private sector contributions to shipwreck discovery, research and preservation.

Dive clubs, local historical and maritime societies, sport divers, and other organizations and persons who find and report the discovery of previously unknown shipwrecks, who volunteer their skills, or who donate the use of their vessels, supplies or equipment in shipwreck projects should be recognized for their contributions to shipwreck discovery, research and preservation. Forms of recognition should include, but not be limited to:

(a) Naming shipwreck sites after the person who discovers it;

(b) Issuing certificates or plaques to organizations and persons who find and report the discovery of previously unknown shipwreck sites; who volunteer their skills on shipwreck projects; or who donate the use of their vessels, supplies or equipment on shipwreck projects;

(c) Naming discoverers, volunteers and donors in museum exhibits, newspaper and magazine coverage, and publications; and

(d) When a State's shipwreck management program provides for the release of artifacts and other materials removed from State-owned shipwrecks, giving appropriate artifacts or materials to discoverers, volunteers and donors.

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