A Canadian volunteer's ARPP experience

By Kimberly Monk

So, how is it that a Canuck ended up on the ARPP? Well, I believe the bottom line came down to determination... and a very good, long distance phone plan! I must have talked with ten different organizations throughout the Southern USA before I reached Dr. David Webb at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. I explained that I was interested in a career of Nautical Archeology, and I wished to gain some field experience in underwater excavation. I hesitated to mention that I was only an undergraduate entering first year anthropology with absolutely no training in archaeology whatsoever. Dr. Webb described a project which he was involved with, located in North Florida on the Aucilla River. He went on to explain that I would be able to receive underwater archaeology experience, without any previous formal training. My determination had paid off, and I had finally found field work. And better yet, I wouldn't have to mortgage the house in order to take part!

At this point in time, Canada unfortunately doesn't offer many opportunities to learn skills in underwater archaeology. Sure we have great shipwrecks, which are incredibly preserved due to the cold, freshwater lakes. However, shipwrecks are a time capsule, of some documentation. I believe the true detective work remains in such prehistoric sites as the Aucilla.

It's not every day that you stumble across mastodon bones, prehistoric fishhooks and fossilized alligator dung, or so I thought. Such was not the case on the Aucilla. For every day was a new adventure and a new find, as artifacts were constantly being found and studied. It was a wonderful experience to rotate assignments between the screendeck, divemaster and diving positions because you were able to see the project from a variety of different standpoints. Thanks to such a professional and knowledgeable crew, I learned more from my "Aucilla River Teachers" than from any history course which I had taken.

I returned to Toronto later that month with a wealth of stories and information to tell my Canadian friends. But more than just my friends, I wanted to share my experiences with the local diving community.

This led me to increase my involvement in an organization known as Save Ontario Shipwrecks. SOS is a non-profit volunteer organization with many local chapters across the province.

Along with public education and shipwreck research, the local chapter members undertake projects to promote the conservation efforts of SOS.

As the current Toronto chapter president, I appreciate the experience which I received on the ARPP as I attempt to guide the chapter in adopting projects of our own.

As a result of my experience with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project, I came to understand that all great volunteer projects are much like a recipe. It takes one part location, another part group activity, and the most important ingredient of all ... the special people who work together to make the project a success. It is these people whom I must thank for all the great memories, which I will never forget.

See y'all Americans at the rise in '97, eh?

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