Florida Keys Maritime Archaeological Field School

In The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Photographs From The 2005 Field School On The Button Wreck
19th July to 9th August

 Field School Objectives:    

The objective was to conduct a non-intrusive survey of the Button Wreck site to see if further clues as to the ships identity and purpose could be found. At the time of the archaeological survey, it became apparent that the wreck was very important for a number of reasons, the primary one being that it was one of a very few remaining ships of the Colonial British time period 1740’s that was intact in Florida. It is difficult to state why the lower hull is intact, on top of a reef in shallow water in "hurricane alley" other than good fortune.

The team measured and record the remaining structure and archaeological training was given on survey equipment, which include ADMAT’s own Underwater Survey Diver course   Pt 1 & 2 (equal to NAS part 1&2), Proton Magnetometer Diver Course (both PADI SDC unique to ADMAT) and various relevant archaeological courses were run including Peter Holt's Site Recorder program.

From the information gained during the Field School, we are close to confirming the type and nationality of The Button Wreck. At the moment we are in effect completing a three dimensional jig saw puzzle without the original picture to act as a guide. Normally the artefacts found on site, assist with the timing of the sinking and the nationality. However, apart from the few artefacts mentioned the report, the site was void of artefacts. There is a high probability that more artefacts are on site, but they are currently buried. That means that it is the interpretation of the ship’s construction, which will indicate the type and use of the vessel. At present, and it is noted here that at the moment we only have access to about one third of the surviving ships construction; the vessel appears to be a warship and not a merchant ship. The positioning of the frames and the strength of the construction prove this. We estimate the vessel was over 30 metres (100 ft.), and up to 10 metres (30 ft) wide. We estimate, from the construction that the vessel was constructed prior to 1760 possibly as early as 1745 and has a total absence of copper and non ferrous fastenings.

ADMAT was working under  National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) permit to conduct maritime archaeological non-intrusive surveys in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The team was very grateful to NOAA and FKNMS for their support. NOAA issued the Survey/Inventory Permit # FKNMS-2005-006 on the 4th April 2005, under the National Marine Sanctuaries ACT together with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act. This authorised maritime archaeologist Dr. Simon Q. Spooner to conduct maritime archaeological work in a 13 mile by 3 mile stretch of the FKNMS. Dr. Simon Q. Spooner (at the time a Research Associate at the Centre For Maritime Archaeology And History at the University of Bristol) together with the Anglo~Danish Maritime Archaeological Team (ADMAT) and it’s US sub-division ADMAT USA, both non-profit organisations (ADMAT USA being a 501 C3 (Charity)); conducted non intrusive maritime archaeological work on The Button Wreck, during 19th July to the 9th August.

As with all non-profit archaeological field schools, a large number of people have assisted and advised. ADMAT and ADMAT USA are very grateful for their support, comments and assistance. We therefore give our gratitude to the following:

Maj. Denis B. Trelewicz (Rtd.) who without his assistance, the idea of conducting an maritime archaeological survey of the Button Wreck, would never have occurred; Dr. Duncan Mathewson III for his extensive knowledge on ship construction and his assistance with the school network; Cdr. Stephen Beckwith - Upper Keys Regional Manager and Brenda Altmeier from NOAA who assisted with the permit application, arranging NOAA’s support for the project and the donation of the petrol for the boat, the arrangement and introduction of the accommodation and the general day to day assistance; Cdr. AlbertJ ExnerMD Regional Director of Health Services, NOAA- Marine Operations, Pacific; LTJG Eric Johnson – NOAA; Cheva Heck – NOAA; John Halas – NOAA; Ivy Kelley – NOAA; Dave Dinsmore Director, NOAA Diving Program and Bruce Terrell, NOAA/NMSP Senior Archaeologist; Dr. William (Bill) Fitt, who kindly rented his Key Largo Marine Research Laboratory (KLMRL) to us for the duration; Jerry Wilkenson President of the Historic Preservation Society in the Upper Keys for arranging the lecture and Nancy Diersing Education Specialist FKNMS.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the three boat captains, for being an essential part of the Team day in and day out, and for lending us their boats. These are Capt. “JJ” Kennedy, Capt. Bob Hills and Capt. Hyatt Hodgdon who in addition to lending us his boat, made his home and docks available for us to use for the duration of the project. We also thank Maj. Denis B. Trelewicz (Rtd.) for the extensive use of his boat for the RECCE and the project.

The private companies and organisations that assisted with non-financial sponsorship in various ways are:

Bob Williams and Aquascan International Ltd., Conleth McCallan and Datanet UK Ltd., Chris Roper and Roper Resources Ltd., Jeff Robertson and NIBCO John Gann and Chesapeake Technology Inc., Keith Forward and Forward Diving Services, Keith Forward and Explorer Cases Ltd., Peter Holt and 3 H Consulting, Callum Magee and AC-CESS, Kathryn Gambola and Luxfer Gas Cylinders and NOAA. The team are very grateful to all these companies and individuals who volunteered and gave assistance.

The ADMAT core personnel conducted excellent work before, during and after the project. Without the hard work and assistance of: Christine Nielsen, Jeremy Schomberg, Andrew Shrimpton, Kathy Schubert and Dr. Simon Q. Spooner; the project could have not started. Christine Nielsen in addition spent months cleaning and processing the 16 gigabytes of photographic information. Dr. Simon Q. Spooner for being the Principal Investigator, writing the report and collating the 1,750 measurements and drawing the site plan by hand.

ADMAT would like to congratulate the students for taking part and thanks them for their hard work and assistance. The students were: Roberto Sanchez, Faith Sahadath, Patricia S. Balian, Karen Terry, Patrick Enlow, Sarah E. Chamlee, Frank Betts, Ryan Duggins, Ben Kilbey, Jessica Berry, Angela O’Reilly, Dr. It Vladimir Pletser, Jayne Pletser, Dimitri Pletser, David Firn, John W. Hillard and Guillaume Malingue.

During this field school, we had representatives from the following countries:

England, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Mexico, Canada and the USA.


The field school was located in Key Largo in the Florida Keys, south of Miami. The plan below has a link to a web site where a more detailed street map can be found. This is illustrated below, with the location of the accommodation as a red dot and the boats a blue dot.

The site of The Button Wreck is situated on a flat reef in 9ft of water, approximately two miles southwest of Carysfort Light Tower, about 5 miles off shore, and approximately 10 miles from the dock in Key Largo on the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys. The wreck is located in the northern arrear of ADMAT’s permit and of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).