The Revolutionary War is all around Yorktown, including in the York River.
For Williamsburg resident John Broadwater, a world-renowned underwater archaeologist, of JRS Explorations, Inc., discovering the multitude of centuries-old wreck ships is a long-term love project.
Broadwater, along with several volunteer associates, recently explored the York River to further investigate what is believed to be a British ship that was destroyed during a final naval battle before the surrender of Cornwallis.
The British had a convoy of 50 to 60 ships off the coast of what is now Yorktown beach and Riverwalk Landing. They were trapped by the French who had a secret weapon, red-hot cannonballs that were heated in the ships’ ovens. The tactic caused many British ships to burn and sink, he said.
“This is from reading first-hand accounts,” he said.
Broadwater and his crew of Mike Nusbaum, Bill Waldrop and Josh Daniel are trying to pin down the wreckage location.
Waldrop and Daniel are lowering PVC pipes to then insert side-scan sonar. Putting in the pipes is the hard part, according to Waldrop. This is due the amount of underwater oyster shells. And the wreck is buried.
Once they sonar is set, they can interpret the images later in the office, Daniel said. More discoveries are made on the computer, not in the boat, he added.
“I can properly review the data once at home,” he said.
Daniel, owner of Sea Floor Solutions in Chesapeake Beach, Md., donates his time, expertise and the sensors.
During their expedition, they are trying to determine the width and beam of the ship. Determining the exact ship by name is somewhat of a challenge. The ship currently being expedited is one of many of the same kind that has seven canons.
If they find a piece of a ship, they leave it until it can be properly removed.
Last year, they found a cannon ball that currently sits at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
The program has little funding. Mainly, they need money for fuel, lodging and food. To contribute contact Steve Ormsby at the Watermen’s Museum at Watermens.org or (757) 887-2641.