Divers Identify Historic Shipwreck Off Alaska - St Herman's legacy?
- Divers Identify Historic Shipwreck Off Alaska
July 27, 2004
Alaska - Divers working 80 feet below the surface of Monk's Lagoon
off Kodiak Island, Alaska, have identified a shipwreck first
discovered in July of 2003 as the Russian-American Company ship
Kad'yak, lost in 1860. The team mapped the wreck and recovered more
artifacts for diagnostic purposes through July 26. The National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science
Foundation are funding the missionNOAA is an agency of the U.S.
Department of Commerce.
Bradley Stevens, a diver from NOAA Fisheries' Kodiak, Alaska
laboratory, led the team of volunteers who first discovered the
wreck, but the remains of the wooden ship and pieces of the structure
they found could not confirm the origins or name of the ship. Stevens
subsequently conducted an extensive search of records, charts and
maps trying to determine the identity of this wreck, to no avail.
An East Carolina University-led dive team from this current mission
solved the mystery on July 15 when they recovered a brass object
believed to be the hub of the ship's wheel with the ship's name
clearly inscribed in Russian.
"It is extraordinary for underwater archaeologists to identify a 144-
year old shipwreck this quickly," said Timothy Runyan, director of
the Maritime Studies Program at East Carolina University and co-
principle investigator on the mission.
The cold Alaskan water has helped preserve a good portion of the ship
and researchers believe there may be other significant well preserved
historic shipwrecks among the estimated several thousand that lie in
Alaskan waters. This is the first professionally conducted maritime
archaeological project in Alaskan waters and is also supported by
NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program in Newport News, Va., the Alaska
Office of History and Archaeology, and several volunteers.
The 132-foot bark built in Lubeck, Germany, in 1851 departed Kodiak
headed for San Francisco carrying 350 tons of ice when she struck an
uncharted rock and quickly filed with water. Captain Illarion
Archimandritof ordered the crew into the boats, saving all hands. The
ice kept the vessel afloat for three days but attempts to tow the
ship toward shore using rowboats failed and the Kad'yak drifted about
six miles before settling to the bottom at Monk's Lagoon on Spruce
The town of Kodiak was a center for the trading activities of the
Russian-American Company operating under a charter from the Russian
czar. Kad'yak is the only Russian-American Company ship ever
discovered and will provide new information on the period of Russian
control of Alaska prior to its purchase by the United States in 1867.
The shipwreck figures prominently in the history of Native Alaskans
and is part of the oral tradition of the villagers of Ouzinkie.
Russian Orthodox missionaries converted most of the local people, the
most prominent missionary being Father Herman who established a
chapel and orphanage on Spruce Island. Father Herman died in 1836 and
was later canonized as St. Herman.
Before sailing on that fateful voyage, Captain Archimandritof
promised to pay homage to Father Herman at his chapel, but he did
not. Local tradition suggests that it was divine retribution when the
Kad'yak hit an uncharted submerged rock and then drifted to Spruce
Island before sinking to the bottom immediately before Father's
Herman's shore-side chapel. The top of the mainmast and a yardarm
stood above the surface forming a cross, the natives taking this as
an admonition to the captain for his failure to hold the promised
service before sailing.
A permit to investigate the site was issued to East Carolina
University by the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology,
Department of Natural Resources. The state claimed the wreck because
it lies within three miles of shore and the state historic
preservation officer has declared the Kad'yak eligible for the
National Register of Historic Places.
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