March 13, 2006 – A team from the University of Maine has made significant progress on figuring out how to go about creating three-dimensional images of St. John's ruins, according to V.I. National Park archeologist Ken Wild, speaking at a presentation Monday at the Cinnamon Bay archeological lab.
The university's team started two years ago to map the ruins at Leinster Bay in an effort to preserve their images for history.
"If the money becomes available we will have the data to reconstruct them," Wild told the two dozen-plus people who attended the presentation.
Moisture has taken its toll on ruins. The ruins are also damaged when vegetation forces its way through cracks in the walls. Wild said that keeping the ruins clear of vegetation takes more manpower than the park can afford to fund.
While keeping the Leinster Bay ruins clear is a monumental task, University of Maine students involved with the project faced other challenges.
"The biggest challenge was the photography," student Matt Morin said, referring to the hundreds of photographs the students are taking to be used in the three-dimensional mapping.
Karen Horton, who teaches mechanical engineering technology at the school, said the photographs of "every little nook and cranny" are fed into a computer program that creates the three-dimensional images.
She said that in several months, the images will be available online.
Wild spoke about what it takes to preserve existing ruins, including the fact that most of the island's 500-plus known ruins are located far out in the bush.
He said that when the park attempted to preserve the Reef Bay great house, crews had to use helicopters to bring in concrete because moving it over land was too difficult.
Wild said that the park plans to rebury the remains of slaves that were exposed when the sea eroded their graves. The beach at Cinnamon Bay has suffered from extensive erosion over time. This means that some of the graves that were once located on land are now in the ocean.
Wild said the new graves will be located behind the archeology lab.
He said the park plans to refurbish the archeology lab as a museum. And since the building is close to the beach, it will have transportable cabinets that can be removed when a storm threatens.
In discussing new archeological finds, Wild said crews have uncovered the remains of a French gunflint at Turtle Point that dates to the late 1600s or early 1700s. He said this was significant because most artifacts discovered on St. John were deposited after 1780.
Wild said crews have found a cannon located under water with potshards nearby that date to the 1600s. He also said a prehistoric cave was also discovered, but declined to give their locations to protect them from harm.
The mapping project is funded by the Friends of the V.I. National Park, the University of Maine and the V.I. Humanities Council.
Students working on a variety of projects at the park have created a blog to provide details to the public at friendsvinparch.blogspot.com.
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