“Shipwrecks An Important Cultural Resource”

April 21, 2015

Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden recently spoke at the launch of Shipwrecked: Bermuda’s Maritime Heritage, a new book written by Dr. Gordon Payne Watts Jr. and published by the National Museum of Bermuda Press that aims to shed light on the more than 300 shipwrecks in Bermuda’s waters.

At the launch, which was held at Queen’s Exhibition Hall, Minister Atherden said, “Shipwrecks are one of Bermuda’s most important cultural resources. They are, in effect, underwater museums offering the public, visitors, students and scholars an opportunity to investigate five centuries of technology, trade, communication and conflict.

“Not everyone has access to these shipwrecks and their stories. And that is why the work of the National Museum is so important. I would like to congratulate the Museum on their latest achievement.”

Shipwrecked

Shipwrecked: Bermuda’s Maritime Heritage by Dr. Gordon Payne Watts, Jr., traces the Island’s role as the shipwreck capital of the mid-Atlantic and describes the intimate partnership Bermuda has enjoyed with the sea.

“In this book, Dr. Watts places three decades of archaeological and archival research in the wider context of Bermudian history and the development of what is today known as the Atlantic world.

“He covers five centuries of Bermuda maritime history: from Bermuda’s discovery in 1505 by Juan de Bermudez to the advent of steamships and on to shipwrecks of the 20th century.

“Shipwrecked is the first of its kind, bringing together the most comprehensive study of Bermuda shipwrecks in one place. Packed with stunning photographs of shipwreck artifacts, paintings, maps and underwater sites combined with archaeological drawings, this definitive work will be of interest not only to local dive enthusiasts but to visiting divers, local educators, students and overseas scholars.”

Minister Atherden’s full statement follows below:

Good Evening,

Thank you to the Museum’s Chairman Mr. Robert Blee and its Executive Director Dr. Edward Harris for inviting me to be here tonight to the National Museum of Bermuda for the launch of the book Shipwrecked: Bermuda’s Maritime Heritage.

We are privileged enough to have its author here with us tonight, Dr. Gordon Watts, who I would like to commend for his work in producing such a beautiful and informative book which I know will serve as a resource on Bermuda’s maritime history for years to come.

And how appropriate that this event be held in the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, which contains a wonderful new exhibit on Bermuda’s shipwreck heritage.

Shipwrecks are one of Bermuda’s most important cultural resources. They are, in effect, underwater museums offering the public, visitors, students and scholars an opportunity to investigate five centuries of technology, trade, communication and conflict.

English galleons, French frigates, American schooners, brigantines, paddle steamers, steamships, gunboats, tugs and racing yachts [to name a few] all speak to the network of intercontinental connections which developed following European expansion into the Americas and Africa.

Not everyone has access to these shipwrecks and their stories. And that is why the work of the National Museum is so important. I would like to congratulate the Museum on their latest achievement.

Shipwrecked: Bermuda’s Maritime Heritage by Dr. Gordon Payne Watts, Jr., traces the Island’s role as the shipwreck capital of the mid-Atlantic and describes the intimate partnership Bermuda has enjoyed with the sea.

Dr. Watts, an American marine archaeologist, has spent his career investigating shipwrecks and is an esteemed scholar in the field. Having studied wrecks in Jamaica, Panama, Mexico, France, Dominican Republic, and the United States, he first visited Bermuda in 1982 to examine the Island’s most historic wreck, the Sea Venture.

With the Museum, he launched a long-running cooperative programme to scientifically investigate Bermuda shipwrecks, which included a study of American Civil War blockade runners, the raising of a 16th-century Spanish vessel, and the re-examination and documentation of a number of previously salvaged sites which has yielded a wealth of new information.

In this book, Dr. Watts places three decades of archaeological and archival research in the wider context of Bermudian history and the development of what is today known as the Atlantic world. He covers five centuries of Bermuda maritime history: from Bermuda’s discovery in 1505 by Juan de Bermudez to the advent of steamships and on to shipwrecks of the 20th century.

Shipwrecked is the first of its kind, bringing together the most comprehensive study of Bermuda shipwrecks in one place. Packed with stunning photographs of shipwreck artifacts, paintings, maps and underwater sites combined with archaeological drawings, this definitive work will be of interest not only to local dive enthusiasts but to visiting divers, local educators, students and overseas scholars.

None of this would have been possible without the Museum’s long-standing work and unfaltering commitment over the past 40 years to the care and protection of Bermuda’s underwater cultural heritage and public education. Shipwreck artifacts were on display when the Museum first opened its doors in 1976, and since the early 1980s the Museum has been the custodian of the Bermuda Government’s collection of shipwreck artifacts.

Since then the Museum staff and committed volunteers have catalogued, researched, documented, cared for, interpreted, conserved and exhibited the Government’s collection of shipwreck artifacts.

The Government is also committed, through the 2001 Historic Wrecks Act, to its role in the protection of our shipwreck heritage, which is also by its international nature the heritage of other countries and peoples.

With the publication of this book it is hoped that more people, locally and overseas, will become aware of the value of this heritage, and of the part they can play in safeguarding it for future.

Thank you.

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  1. mj says:

    The other half Deuteronomy 28:68–”And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt(bondage) again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee,Thou shalt see it no more again; and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy(redeem)you.’ I wonder if we can explore all of the history involved in the shipwrecks and have honest discussion.. Not all of us have such delightful memories of the past five hundred years. Joel 3:2—I will also gather all nations and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshapat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land, and they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.”

  2. Everett gibson says:

    I would love to have this book but being a senior citizen on a pension I can not justify the almost $75.00 price.there are other things like food and prescriptions that are more important.I am sure there are other people in the same situation mostly seniors who nobody gives a damn about anymore anyway.It seems that all the contributIons we made to this island have been forgotten and I think that the insurance companies wish we would hurry up and die.

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