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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division


After the Flood: Historic Event Spurs SC Underwater Site Impact Survey

By Nate Fulmer

WANTED: Post-flood Site Reports for SC Underwater Site Impact Survey (SCUSIS)

An estimated 11 trillion gallons of water fell across South Carolina during the recent historic rainfall event.  As soon as the unprecedented floodwaters began to recede, government agencies at every level began to assess damage to roads, bridges, dams, homes, and businesses throughout the Palmetto State. Statewide, the impact from this event may exceed that of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The damage to public infrastructure and private property alone is staggering, and we are just beginning to grasp the effects this event had on archaeological sites located in and along our state’s many public waterways.  Our primary mission here at the Maritime Research Division is to preserve and protect South Carolina’s maritime archaeological heritage and we are seeking volunteers to assist in documentation of the storm’s impact on submerged cultural resources. 

     In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, we have already fielded reports concerning newly-exposed cultural resources in several waterways across the state. The MRD is staffed by only four individuals and our resources are limited, but members of the public and our base of more than 500 active Hobby Licensees can help us document the impact on sites old and new.  In order to more fully understand the effects of this historic flooding on our archaeological heritage, we will need the help of many people who live, work and play in and on the water in SC. 

     We anticipate more interesting reports as the public and many Hobby Diver Licensees return to some vastly-changed waterways in the coming weeks and months.  In some places, rapid erosion has likely exposed sites that were previously unknown. In others, rapid deposition of sediment and other storm debris may have buried known sites completely.   If you are a diver who is familiar with the pre-flood site conditions of known archaeological sites, we’d really appreciate some observations of such changes in your quarterly reports. Of course, if you come across a new site such as a shipwreck that has been exposed by erosion, we ask you to contact us immediately.

     Beyond scuba divers and Hobby Licensees, our doors are open to waterfront residents, boaters, fishermen, shrimpers, law enforcement officers, contractors, and anyone else who wishes to contribute information related to post-flood observations of submerged cultural resources. Your help will be instrumental in this effort.  Anyone may contact us at mrd@sc.edu or call (843)762-6105 to report observations of cultural material or an exposed shipwreck.  

     As we continue to collect and compile data and conduct site assessments, we will provide updates about the progress of the ongoing survey on our website and in future editions of the Quarterly Reporter