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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division


Turtle Island Canoe Conservation Complete

A progress report on the Turtle Island Canoe on Daufuskie Island

       Since the recovery of the canoe from Turtle Island, south of Daufuskie Island, in late 2012, the historic dug-out watercraft sat in a tank soaking in Polyethylene glycol (PEG) impregnated water. The cypress canoe absorbed the PEG to bulk-up the wood cells for four years. A year ago, the solution in the tank was drained to begin air drying the water-logged canoe. Several bags of silica gel desiccants placed inside the covered tank slowly removed the evaporated water from the air. The entire conservation process was undertaken at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company Restaurant on Daufuskie Island. Overseen by the MRD, the day-to-day operations and expenses were assumed by Mr. Wick Scurry, proprietor of the restaurant. A plastic see-through tank covering permitted patrons of the restaurant to see the canoe undergoing the soaking and drying treatments. A display of signage and images detailing the recovery of the canoe from the marsh augmented the conservation operation.

 

Earlier this year, after receiving word that the canoe had completed the air-drying process, the MRD and Dr. Jonathan Leader, state archaeologist and conservator, returned to Daufuskie Island to inspect and to plan the final restoration of the canoe for public display. We found the canoe dried and covered in a fine, thin powdery layer of dry mud. While there was some warping of the broken ends of the canoe, the overall appearance suggested the treatment process had worked quite well. To complete the restoration of the canoe, a scaffolding system to support and to reattach several broken pieces will be necessary. Suitable designs and examples from other canoe exhibits are under consideration for use on the canoe. Once re-assembled the Turtle Island Canoe will go on display in an air-conditioned space at the Bloody Point Lighthouse and Museum also operated by Mr. Scurry.  In the near future, visitors, having arrived to the island by ferry boat, will get to see an historic example of watercraft that once plied the local coastal waters.