Barbara Wyatt: So our first speaker is Jim Delgado. He’s the director of Maritime Heritage and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. His four decade career has included a 13 year tenure with National Park Service, including serving as the service’s maritime historian. His interest in maritime history and archeology has remained a constant passion and focus. His favorite maritime sites and subjects remain the next one’s he’ll encounter.
Jim Delgado: Thank you.
For us in Sanctuaries, being one of those places where we hope to be the pointy end of the spear or where the rubber meets the road, with the MPA center’s [white?] page has meant an interesting journey. Particularly, in dealing with a system which is largely defined by a sense that it is natural resource based in that other view with only a few maritime heritage sites.Indeed, one of the biggest concepts of all that we’ve had to grapple with, was the sense that well, we don’t have shipwrecks, therefore, we have no maritime heritage in our sanctuary.
I think we’ve evolved through that and in particular, now, we’ve started to apply this in a couple of ways. We’ve yet to actually do a national register nomination for a maritime cultural landscape. We continue to do sites or districts. But, we’ve started to line things up so that when and if the time comes, we can start looking at it though that lens. Applying criteria and if not actually writing nominations, than at least preparing stuff, pulling it together in a way that can serve as the basic source that we will then mine for section 106 or 110 consultations. As the opportunity to use this for developing historic resource studies or archeological resource studies. Also, I think, in a large part as well, to mine as part of the ongoing message that we present to the public.
What I would like to do, is rather than talk generally about how MHP and NOAA uses MCL, I’m going to run really quickly through an exercise we did recently to support the expansion, knock on wood, of USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary; out there off the North Carolina coast in an area known as the graveyard of the Atlantic.
This is a rather important area. When you look at the history, not only of the United States, but global maritime, culture, history, you name it, the world converged on this place in large part, not just because there is a group of barrier islands, but because it’s a key spot on an ocean highway. The gulf stream has been and remains, a very powerful presence there. But as well, this is a place that people have gathered, encountered, and used for millennia.
In looking at this place, of course being NOAA, we started way up in space with satellites. But, then began to zoom down, looking at it in the micro scale. Starting with the macro scale and in particular, how these barrier islands surrounded by water, are a maritime landscape in every way shape and form.
From space down to the perspective that you have from a small craft or standing on the beach. All of this is key. What’s also key, is that it’s also an evolving changing landscape. Not only in terms of sea level rise from the last post glacial maximum when that plane most definitely was inhabited by people. But also, as a landscape that has continued to change dramatically in our own time.
Whether you map that in changes in inlets and the effects of the environment as well as the culture. Or, whether you look at it in terms of the ongoing ways by which humanity has responded to those changes; constructing bridges, adding ferry systems, building settlements in and around key inlets and then abandoning them as those inlets closed and a new inlet opened.
All of that part and parcel of that experience and of that human interaction in this landscape and as well as the consequences of not heading what happens in that landscape. With that as well, ultimately a view that, in time, given what’s happening to the environment. The outer banks will to a certain extent, “disappear” if you will, from most people’s perspective or perhaps from people’s minds out of the landscape; as certainly houses and roads have washed away.
But, I can ensure you of this. For each and every person who has an ancestral tie to those outer banks, they will never disappear. Just as the islands of Carabas and every other nation in the Pacific will not disappear from the collective cultural memory or the maritime cultural landscape of the peoples out there.
Of course, it starts with ancestors. It’s starts with traditional uses. But indeed as we begin to asses this and as we developed our first document in the system that looked at the MCL, the key thing was not to relegate ancestral indigenous people to merely being there in the past. To recognize, of course, that these are people who had been there for a long time. People that still persist to this day and are actively involved, and we find this throughout our system.
I certainly got that years ago working and living in the Pacific Northwest where the large portion of the fishing community remained to the people who had been fishing there for thousands of years.
As well, the other thing I think we looked at is, how much this area particularly in and around the outer banks had been ground zero for a number of folks with cultural context that came as a result of that maritime highway. How that preserved world encountered by Europeans was not only depicted, chartered, and mapped, but became a center of their activities in the Colonial era, again driven by ships and trade. And ultimately in the establishment of settlements and communities.
In looking at maritime cultural landscape out there, what we have ended up doing is incorporating a sense of each and every maritime community such as it is. Be it a Smith Island on Chesapeake Bay, but also communities like Bath or Beaufort and how these people have interacted with and used that landscape. Be it the construction of board walkways in the shallows of the sounds. Be it in the construction of large hotels. Be it in the windmills that take advantage of the natural ocean environment. All of that, key elements, and of course remaining key is the fact that over time, that landscape settled, occupied, became a center point for tourism, For development, a national seashore, ultimately a national marine sanctuary off those shores, a very small one centered on iconic Civil War shipwreck.
But, also, for large numbers of people who came there in the true meaning of recreation to recreate themselves in that unique ocean environment, and to this day still use it and interact with it.
A fascinating concept for us, as well, particularly given point of view we have regarding certain areas of our system, that all of these uses can be described and talked about and you can do so without placing a value judgement on it.
It’s a very fascinating thing for me therefore to be addressing this issue with some of our superintendents, not here but elsewhere, when we talk about the ocean energy and environment and things such as off shore oil drilling and platforms. Key important elements in the maritime cultural landscape going way back, in terms of how we as human’s have harvested energy from the sea.
You can talk about such things without throwing rocks at them. And I will say that certainly helps us not only at our discussions with colleagues in BOES and BSSE, but also with the oil and gas industry with whom we must work in the gulf.
Indeed, as we have looked at the maritime cultural landscape in and around North Carolina, it’s also been key for us to engage with those communities there who might see us as a threat in closing off and building a fence around a vast area of the ocean. Having a document that speaks to their ongoing use, neigh beach driving, beach campfires, fishing, recreational fishing, commercial fishing, all of that has absolutely been key.
And again, with NOAA developing a document that speaks to this ongoing cultural tradition that is non-judgmental. We would be remiss, however, if we did not point out things like the size of those fish at Oregon Inlet and talk about the size of fish being caught today.
We talk about elements that are iconic that speak to people that inputting in to a maritime cultural landscape document for a sanctuary does not mean that we are trying to stake a claim or say, “Hey! We own a piece of that!” Not at all. But, rather they are all interconnected. Whether they are the iconic lighthouses, some of which are in the national seashores or elements that no longer exist. Or, they’re simply on the landscape or in the memory, such as the light ships. Or, in the case of Diamond Shoal’s, the actual wreck itself. Or, the now abandoned Texas Towers.
We talk about fortifications and how the ocean highway met at this area a key area to be defended. We talk about seacoast fortifications throughout all periods of history. From prehistoric times and palisades all the way up to the modern era. And of course, we do talk about these things as well. Not only off shore, but where they crashed ashore on the beaches and indeed where that was responded to by the United States Life Saving Service, later the Coast Guard.
All key inter-related elements on this highway of the sea and an ongoing activity. Again, why do my bosses like it? Because it also links them powerfully with another partner, the Coast Guard with whom we collaborate. Not only in terms of cultural resources, but in enforcement actions out there if need be.
I guess in a sense, as it is with other communities, hopefully what these documents show is that we get it to a certain extent and are interested in more dialogue.
That of course also included, shipwreck remains on beaches that are still there in the boundaries of the national park and ship wrecks that are no longer there.
Ann and I were just talking on the flight in about shipwrecks on the landscape that got away, and as an archeologist, it took me a long time to realize in the maritime cultural landscape it’s not just the wrecks that are there that have left their tangible bones, it’s the one’s that crashed ashore and got pulled off and maybe have left nothing but a powerful memory or an iconic photograph. But which are part and parcel of the story and of the landscape.
And battles fought and perhaps not so tangible, but also key and important. All the way down to even things like the placement of ships in the bombardment of Fort Fisher. Then of course, the iconic wreck that lead to the creation of the first national marine sanctuary, USS Monitor.
It’s not alone. There are other Civil War wrecks out there that speak to this, and of course, there is the ongoing battlefield that Joe Hoyt will talk about later. Which has its own elements ashore as well as out in the water and is an active part of ongoing diving.
Underwater archeology in and by itself is also a key part of that landscape. Not only in terms of what has happened in the past with iconic projects. Be they Monitor or Queen Anne’s Revenge or others, but what happens today in which the archeological resources as they are, help inform and inspire. How the elements of that landscape include places like East Carolina University, known to several in the room, and it’s ongoing role in dealing with all of that out there, and of course then the Mariner’s Museum and home of the Monitor Center.
I want to close with one other aspect that has helped us. That is that being NOAA and being an agency which has an ancestry that goes back to the coast survey. We have access to a wide range of documentation and that included the original coast survey charts. Not only those published, and there are a wide range of them that document the landscape, as I said all the way down to where the ships were when they were battering Fort Fisher. But, also manuscript charts that also speak to other elements whether they are documenting the presence of a Civil War shipwreck, or several, or, manuscript charts such as these that grapple with every aspect that you will only find archivally. Now, thanks to the NOAA central library and the work of Skip Theberge and John Cloud are digitized and available.
In particular, the T-sheets that speak to the coast survey have been a powerful resource for us and we intend to use these and share these with any and all partners, indeed, in North Carolina to be able to come up with this drawing. You will not just of the mouth of Fort, of the Cape Fear, but the actual blockade running port to which all of these vessels would wait once they cleared through, got past the blockading fleet. That little landscape, that portion of the landscape, documented there.
And indeed, other elements like the historic oyster beds also documented in manuscript form which also helps inform the natural resource managers in terms of where oysters were, where they’re not anymore. We are even using that same approach in California. Because, the coast survey, a most anal bunch of Germans, actually documented each and every kelp bed.
And so in this way and in this fashion, we’re helping use these documents to drive our own maritime cultural landscape look at the banks, at the graveyard of the Pacific, at the industries, and at the people. And most particularly with that, I will close by saying, that for us, the most critical element has been and will remain engagement with the public and with each other.
The only way I think we are going to move forward in all of this is not only to help define it and to categorize it and to figure out how to use what we can in the existing tool kit, it is to pull together as many of us have and as many of us continue to need to do collaboratively and together. No one agency. No one group. No one CRM firm. No one practitioner is going to get us through this. Together, I think we can come up with something that, sounds to me, will probably be the next best great idea in cultural resources management.