Capt. Kidd shipwreck site to be dedicated 'Living Museum of the Sea' by Indiana University
Nearly three years after the discovery of the shipwreck Quedagh Merchant, abandoned by the scandalous 17th century pirate Captain William Kidd, the underwater site will be dedicated as a "Living Museum of the Sea" by Indiana University, IU researcher and archeologist Charles Beeker, and the government of the Dominican Republic.
The dedication as an official underwater museum will take place off the shore of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic on May 23, the 310th anniversary of Kidd's hanging in London for his 'crimes of piracy.'
The dedication will note both underwater and above-ground interpretive plaques. The underwater plaques will help guide divers around the Kidd site as well as relics and rare corals at two other shipwreck sites.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded IU $200,000 to turn the Captain Kidd shipwreck site and two nearby existing underwater preserves into no-take, no-anchor "Living Museums of the Sea," where cultural discoveries will protect precious corals and other threatened biodiversity in the surrounding reef systems, under the supervision and support of the Dominican Republic's Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático (ONPCS). USAID has since extended its support by a year, increasing the funding award to $300,000.
The Underwater Science team from the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER), led by Beeker, has been working to preserve, analyze and document the Kidd shipwreck since its surprising discovery, which made headlines around the world. This unique museum, resting in less than 10 feet of water just 70 feet from shore, will give divers the opportunity to see the 17th century ship remains, including several anchors, along with dozens of cannons, which rest on the ocean's floor and serve as home to coral and sea creatures. Above water, several more traditional museums will benefit from artifacts that are on loan to IU by the Dominican Republic government for the purpose of study and research.
"As this ongoing multidisciplinary research continues," Beeker said, "interest in the project has grown and new partnerships are developing, including the Peace Corps assigning their volunteers to the project, and the Consorcio Dominicano de Competitividad Turistica promoting the project as a sustainable tourism destination."
As the interest in eco-tourism and unique vacation destinations continues to grow, this Living Museum of the Sea is predicted to be a sought-after destination for those seeking underwater adventures combined with significant 17th century maritime history representative of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean.
Beeker said it was remarkable that the wreck had remained undiscovered all these years given its location, just 70 feet off the coast of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic, and because it has been actively sought by treasure hunters.
"Since the site's discovery, we have worked with government officials, Indiana University partners and museums to preserve this site, the artifacts contained there and to use it all for research and scientific study," said Beeker, a pioneer in underwater museums and preserves. "We have diligently protected this site, and now we are able to share the importance of the Armenian-owned 1699 Quedagh Merchant (which was captured by Kidd off the west coast of India) with students at Indiana University as well as with the public at exhibits at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and the British Museum of Docklands London."
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis helped bring one of the most fascinating underwater mysteries in years to visitors in its new permanent exhibit, National Geographic Treasures of the Earth. Charles Beeker was authorized by Dominican Republic authorities to bring the only cannon recovered from the shipwreck to The Children's Museum for five years of study and conservation. The Children's Museum and Beeker received a $1 million grant from Eli Lilly & Company Foundation to support this project and to search for and recover artifacts from other historically significant ships that are believed to be in the Caribbean, with this including the ongoing search for the Lost Fleet of Christopher Columbus.
The Museum of London Docklands has an exhibition featuring the story of Captain Kidd. The museum will have a special event in coordination with the underwater museum dedication, honoring the 310th anniversary of Kidd's execution.
Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, said the popular museum and IU have similar interests, to bring fascinating discoveries to the public.
"Our intent was to develop the most authentic experience possible -- to bring real archaeological sites, real science, real artifacts and real experts to our visitors. These extraordinary experiences truly have the power to inspire and transform the lives of children through family learning," he said. "We're eager to explore future opportunities with IU's team of experts in the search for other historically significant ships in the Caribbean."
The article was originally published on May 2, 2011.