State Representative Carl Littlefield dives with ARPP

By Joseph M. Latvis

Among the many unique applications we received in response to our 1998 “Call for Volunteers” was one from a diver who listed his occupation as “Florida State Representative from the Dade City district”. Having received encouragement from preliminary discussions with ARPP director Dr. S. David Webb, Carl Littlefield had formally registered his interest in participating for a week on the May/June field season’s dive roster. He was not deterred by learning that the University of Florida’s Diving Science and Safety Program requirements (beyond already possessing a recreational SCUBA diving certification) included a rigorous physical examination, written SCUBA test, and in-water swim and SCUBA skills tests. Nor was he put off by the prospective tent-living conditions at Nutall Rise base camp that all roster participants subscribe to. And so roster dates were mutually agreed upon for the upcoming field season (along with thirty-three other volunteers).

Carl arrived at base camp the morning of May 18, and after the usual morning operational/scientific briefing and introduction to that particular day’s crew, loaded his dive gear into the project pickup trucks for transport to the shuttle vessels that would take us all to the Latvis/Simpson site already under excavation at the Little River section of the Aucilla. As with all divers new to the DSSP certification program who require swim and scuba skills verification in the field, Carl was put through the standard drills by field operations supervisor Bill Gifford that morning. Now fully certified as a scientific research diver Carl was short-cycled into the operations roster for his first project dive that afternoon.

After a detailed pre-dive briefing, Carl and I departed the surface of the Aucilla for the working excavation below. Winding our way among blowdown trees that guarded the one by one meter excavation unit, we arrived on the bottom for the beginning of our scheduled 2-hour dive. Carl displayed the comfort and confidence in the low-visibility, high-current environment that good recreational diving skills typically engender. I introduced Carl to the new skills he would practice with subsequent lead divers in pursuit of the secrets hidden within the Aucilla’s riverbottom sediments: Snooper light tending, fossil and artifact recognition/identification, sediment characterizations, provenience control, dredge excavation, mapping, photography, and field specimen protocols. Carl responded with the cautious enthusiasm typical of our most conscientious divers, eager to acquire the scientific diving techniques requisite to helping explore these fascinating places. A post-dive debriefing clarified subtleties of the preceding dive that were impossible to discuss while on the bottom. Carl returned to his legislative responsibilities that evening, having successfully completed his certification with and introduction to the Aucilla River Prehistory Project field operation.

He subsequently returned to the Nutall Rise base camp on June 1st and pitched his tent for a full week of research diving paired with the likes of field scientific director Matt Mihlbachler, Bill Gifford, Bill Reed and Joe Latvis. Carl endured all the indignities of life in the field that we commonly share, from in-river bathing to heavy gear lifting to muddy swamp footing to insect attacks to “the big shakes” (hypothermia) to a turn on the KP roster, all with the good cheer and camaraderie shared by all. He must have enjoyed the experience, because in July he took advantage of the reciprocity afforded him by his newly acquired scientific diver certification to participate in a five-day research cruise with Florida State University’s “Clovis Underwater ‘98 “ project, exploring Paleo-Aucilla archaeological sites now inundated by the Gulf of Mexico. His enthusiastic support for Division of Historical Resources Special Category Grant funding of this sister project to the ARPP will permit research to continue offshore for two more field seasons in 1999 and 2000.

Editor's note: Carl Littlefield relinquished his State Representative's seat in January 1999 to join the Bush administration as Developmental Disabilities Coordinator and Assistant Secretary for Developmental Services in Tallahassee.