On Thursday, October 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Pilgrim Senior Center, 27 Pilgrim Parkway, Warwick, the Warwick team of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) will present the results of its five-year study of two shipwrecks in Occupessatuxet Cove. These Warwick ships are near where HMS Gaspee was burned by Rhode Island citizens in 1772, but neither of these ships can be that historic vessel, and so the project has been named "Not the Gaspee."
These ships have not yet been firmly identified, but they are known in living memory, and although they may not have the name recognition of more famous vessels, their study has been useful as a comparison of how sites disintegrate or remain stable, based on individual construction details and local conditions. The RIMAP team that conducted the study was made mainly of local Warwick volunteers, organized by State Rep. Joseph McNamara, trained by RIMAP, and under the direction of Principal Investigator, Dr. Kathy Abbass.
The vessel abandoned on Greene Island appears to be a flat-bottomed barge built of heavy timbers, some of which were casually fastened or loosely laid. The rate of this site's disintegration has increased over the course of RIMAP's study, and severe winter storms have swept most of the major timbers into the Cove and along the Providence River channel. The structure of the other unidentified ship is exposed on a moon low tide along the north shore of Occupessatuxet Cove. This vessel appears to be more finely built with more careful fastening, and because of its shape, it may have been an ocean going sailing ship before it made its way to the Cove. This site is more protected in the lee of the land and the condition of the structure appears to be stable. This public archaeology study in Warwick has added to two sites to the inventory of Rhode Island shipwrecks. Their comparison studies document how the sites have changed over the past five years and provide useful information about shipwrecks, especially their unique archaeological site deposition processes, what causes their destruction, and what supports their stability.
This presentation is part of the 2019 statewide Rhode Island Archaeology Month activities organized by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.