Ever wonder what happens to discovered shipwrecks? Or what about a sunken light house or even old glass bottles found in the Connecticut River? Meet Vic Mastone, the guy in charge of all those cool, underwater artifacts. Vic, who’s worked for the state since 1987, has been interested in archeology “forever.”
As Director and Chief Archaeologist of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, Vic gets to pursue his passion by compiling underwater archaeological finds, identifying resources, performing primary research, and reaching out to the public. He aims to get citizens to understand their heritage and its importance.
The past, through archaeological finds, tells us about the present and where we can go in the future. Vic thinks understanding the past is essential because it helps us know “what to do and what not to do.”
One of these moments involves the increasingly important topics of climate change and rising sea level. Vic applies his knowledge of past events to predict the possibilities of what changes might be coming for the state. In the early 1900s, a village near Wellfleet was overtaken by the sea and sunken forests are present in that area, clearly demonstrating the effects of rising sea level. Information about these sites shows how Massachusetts towns and landscape may be affected as climate change continues.
Speaking of being swept in to the sea, one project Vic is currently working on examines the original Minot’s Ledge lighthouse near Scituate, a bare steel skeleton with a myriad of problems built in 1850. In April of 1851, a nor’easter blew and knocked the lighthouse into the water, killing two people in the process. Work is currently being done to map where reminisce of the lighthouse lies in the hopes of creating an underwater trail through the area. An underwater trail would provide a way for people to further understand the story of the lighthouse and increase ecological tourism.
In Boston Harbor, Vic is also studying Chelsea Creek, northeast of the Boston peninsula. Chelsea Creek is often overshadowed by the battle at Bunker Hill in the history of the American Revolution; however, the battle that occurred there first was just as important.
The British spotted several hundred soldiers burning hay and taking livestock, resulting in British heading up the creek in pursuit of the on-foot American soldiers. The first naval battle in Boston Harbor ensued, with the Americans reigning victorious. Stripping and burning the vessel, it sank into the creek and has yet to be recovered. The discovery of the concentration of the fight, along with other details of the battle, should aid in the finding of the remains of the ship, expanding our knowledge of crucial moment in American history.
Not all finds occur in marine environments, like the discovery of a
dugout canoe in Quinsigamond Lake
in Worcester, a favorite find of Vic’s. The canoe was quite the unexpected discovery because canoes from Native American tribes are rarely found. Since the initial discovery, two more dugout canoes have been found and one has even been dated back to the beginning of the colonial period. The Nipmuc tribe has worked with the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources to gain ownership of these canoes and to document the lake further, consequently increasing knowledge about the use of the body of water.
To learn more about these projects and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, visit their website here.