Last modified: Tuesday, August 27, 2002
IU group helps establish world's first underwater shipwreck museum in Dominican Republic
Indiana University faculty and students have helped leaders in the Dominican Republic establish the world's first underwater shipwreck museum.
Charles Beeker, director of the Office of Underwater Science in the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and Geoffrey Conrad, director of IU's Mathers Museum of World Cultures, recently returned to Bloomington after spending a month with a group of IU students to help establish the Caribbean museum. The work was part of a field research project that included the IU International Programs Office.
The 1724 Guadalupe Underwater Archaeological Preserve was dedicated at a ceremony involving Beeker and Tony Raful, the Secretary of Culture for the Dominican Republic.
The Spanish galleons Guadalupe and Tolosa sank in Samana Bay during a hurricane in 1724. The IU group worked with representatives of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Culture and La Romana Bayahibe Hotel Association to utilize artifacts recovered from Samana Bay in the 1970s to establish the underwater preserve adjacent to Viva Dominicus Beach and Viva Dominicus Palace at Bayahibe on the Caribbean island. Included in the museum are 18th century ballast stones, cannons, cannonballs, ceramic pieces and an anchor.
"The site is in 12 to 15 feet of water, so it is readily accessible to snorkelers and divers, allowing visitors the opportunity to see an actual 18th century shipwreck in an underwater museum setting," Beeker said. "This is the first underwater shipwreck museum in the world created for the public benefit." Recognizing the historical and recreational value of the new underwater museum, Project AWARE Foundation and the hotel association financially supported the project, Beeker said.
In conjunction with creation of this underwater museum, IU received approval for further underwater archaeological investigations in the Dominican Republic with the Office of Underwater Cultural Heritage. "We want to involve several IU schools and students to help establish a series of underwater park sites that would include historic shipwrecks and fresh water springs used by the Native-American Taino prior to the arrival of Columbus," explained Beeker, who has directed IU Underwater Science projects in the Dominican Republic since 1993.