Shipwrecks will soon wash to shore.
The Maritime Archaeological Society’s 2020 Shipwreck Conference will be held Saturday. The event will give attendees an opportunity to hear from shipwreck experts and learn about shipwreck projects.
“Everything everybody is doing in their own backyard is of interest and contributes to the larger story of humanity’s thousands of years of interaction with the sea, rivers and lakes,” said Jim Delgado, the conference’s keynote speaker.
Delgado is also a maritime archaeologist, preservation expert and historian. With more than 90% of the world’s oceans and ocean floors unexplored, Delgado considers the ocean “a final frontier with so much to offer.”
This year will be the society’s second conference.
“We’ll have a long, full day of talking about shipwrecks,” said society president Chris Dewey.
A relationship to the water
Delgado, vice president of operations at SEARCH, one of the largest cultural resources and archaeological firms in the U.S., has plenty to discuss during his keynote address. Delgado has spent more than 40 years working on dozens of projects, including deep water archaeological excavations and two missions of the RMS Titanic.
Over the years, he’s worked in both the public and private sectors. In 1987, Delgado became the first maritime historian of the National Park Service. He also founded the National Maritime Initiative and served 15 years as the Vancouver Maritime Museum’s director.
When agencies and individuals are researching, documenting or reporting on underwater archaeological projects, Delgado is “the guy they go to,” Dewey said. Delgado’s appeared on documentaries such as “Drain the Oceans” and “The Sea Hunters.” He often responds to media calls on shipwreck-related stories.
Despite his international reputation, Delgado has an affinity for the West Coast, including the Pacific Northwest. He was born in California, but has lived near Portland. For years, Delgado’s spent time on the Oregon North Coast working on projects, visiting the maritime museum and spending time with colleagues.
“Astoria well appreciates how important our relationship is to the water, particularly at the mouth of the great river and on the shores of the Pacific,” Delgado said.
One of Delgado’s key messages will address the interconnectivity and interdependence of the maritime archaeological movement, and how even local shipwrecks can have an immense impact on a global scale.
Work in different areas, Delgado said, “ties into what’s happening elsewhere and how important it is.” For example, although Delgado is presenting at the conference, he’s also “coming to listen and to learn” from other researchers.
Maritime archaeology, along with other aspects of deep sea exploration and science, has entered a new phase with better real-time connectivity, thanks to state-of-the-art technology. Telepresence can link a project or single dive to an internet-connected audience.
While exploring the wreck of the SS Ituna, lost off California en route to Oregon, researchers were live-streaming their work so people could follow along, Delgado said. The group came across an artifact that resembled machinery but couldn’t be identified specifically until a couple people watching the exploration remotely shared their knowledge and identified it as cannery equipment.
“It was a powerful reminder to everybody out there that the scientists don’t have all the answers,” Delgado said.
Delgado said he looks forward to collaborating with other researchers and conference attendees.