Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 28th

The UASC meets the last Wednesday of each month at the Chicago Maritime Museum located at 1200 West 35th Street, Suite OE5010, Chicago, IL 60609. Free event, ALL ARE WELCOME. Refreshments 6:30, Business 7:00, Speaker 8:00.


Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago



June 2016 Meeting PDF Print E-mail

Underwater Archaeological Society Of Chicago

Meeting Minutes

June 2016

President Bob Rushman welcomed about 25 members and had new members and guests introduce themselves. Brett is a commercial photographer and divemaster and Jose Fernandez is a new member, Army retiree, divemaster and works for Veteran Affairs and Learn Scuba Chicago. John is interested in roller derby and diving and Tom Ewert whose hobby is ships, will be our speaker next month.

Secretary Carol Sommers stated that the minutes are available on-line and in hard copy on the table.

Treasurer Karen Rushman reported that our balance is $11,266 including today’s new members.

Vice President Dean Nolen said that the website is much improved but still needs a specific area set up to list the names of upcoming speakers.

ICSSD - Claire Gadbois announced that the Jim Haigh Memorial dive is scheduled for July 17 at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee and will benefit SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba). September 17 is the International Beach Clean-Up Day and ICSSD will be at Greenwood Beach in Evanston. October 2 will be the underwater pumpkin carving competition at the quarry. The President’s Banquet which has a large raffle and the Diver of the Year Award will be held on October 29. The location is TBA.

Chicago Maritime Museum – Jim Jarecki said that attendance was light for the first week of opening. He will bring up the idea of giving tours at the next board meeting since Atlantis Divers expressed an interest.

Surveys – Leaders are still needed for the Flora Hill and Val’s Wreck. John Gerty and the Kohl’s are finishing the report on the Twelfth Street Wreck and work there must be done in the winter. A response from Michelangelo has not yet been received about his documentation on the Flora Hill, but Bill Messner has been in recent contact with him and will ask him about it. Johnathan Plotner said he will try to complete the Silver Spray report. Jim Jarecki said that dives to note the changes in the wreck are all that is needed for the Materials Service Barge. Ruth and John Loftus, Jim Jarecki and Tony Keifer have produced a document describing how to do surveys so that anyone who wants to become a leader can use it as a “how to” guide.

Survey Training - Dave Thompson will hold it at Carol Sommers house, 1558 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago, IL 6062 on August 6 & 7 with a short optional introductory meeting the evening of the 5th. E-mail Dean Nolan if you are interested. The cost will be around $70 which covers supplies and Dave’s expenses. It will not be the official Nautical Archaeological Society course because that involves buying a $25 membership, taking a $45 on-line course and then paying $150 for the actual course. We will have the same training, but without the certificate. The official NAS certification means that one can take advanced courses and also work with groups in other states which require it. John Loftus said he has taken the SDI course given at DJ’s Scuba Locker which is different in that it is an underwater course.

Recent dive activities – Colin and Miles dove with Jim Gentile on the Buccaneer, which is totally covered with mussels. Bob Rushman gave the history of the ship which was cleaned up and sunk by the Buccaneer Project of which the UASC was a prominent participant. Chuck Miller asked for the Loran co-ordinates, but Bill Messener will send the GPS ones. Dean Nolan dived the Northerner at Port Washington. It is a two-masted schooner with its cargo and bowsprit intact. Even though it is 137 feet deep which means a short bottom time, the ship is only 78 feet long so one can see the whole wreck in a dive.

Other Business – Bill Messener suggested that UASC would attract younger members and divers who want to dive on a more regular basis by scheduling more dive opportunities. He spoke of the “Freedom Boat Club” franchise which has boats in 110 harbors countrywide. Members can dive on any boat by just paying the cost of gasoline. The initiation fee is $7,500 and monthly fee is $400, but UASC can become a member which means everyone in the club interested in diving could participate year-round if they are willing to split the monthly fee. Some of the available boats are 26-foot-long pontoon boats which can be used on a calm day on Lake Michigan and accommodate twelve divers. If UASC became a charitable organization with 501C3 status, it can receive tax-deductible donations and UASC could then run a fund raising campaign to raise money for the initiation fee. Bill suggested that Mike Ginter of the Freedom Boat Club be scheduled as a speaker to give more details and that John Bell’s survey can be used as a training program. Bob said that members should look up the franchise on-line for more information.

There was no short presentation by a member today.

The next meeting is July 27th when the featured speaker will be Tom Ewert who will be showing a video of his dive in a submersible to see the Bismark.

Featured Speaker – Michael Gregory, PhD. Professor at De Paul University

Dr. Gregory gave a short history of Civil War prison camps in the US followed by a discussion of Camp Douglas and its dig site near 31st Street and Calumet here in Chicago. Some interesting facts were that at the beginning of the war, prisoners were paroled after a week, sent home and not allowed to fight again until they were exchanged for another prisoner. Abraham Lincoln stopped the practice when Southerners refused to acknowledge that blacks were soldiers and considered them slaves who could not be eligible for exchange. Camp Douglas was in existence from 1861 to 1865 and at one time had 12,000 prisoners although it was built for 6,000. One could even pay a fee to observe the camp from the second floor of a hotel across the street. The sixty-six barracks had rows of bunks 3 tiers high which slept 3 men in each bed. Conditions were poor. Disease, the elements and poor sanitation caused the death of more than 6,000 prisoners. At Oak Woods Cemetery, there is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere with the remains of more than 4,200 Confederate soldiers. The remains were originally in the cemetery in what is now Lincoln Park.

Loyola, Northern Michigan University and DePaul University have volunteered time and equipment. Original funding was by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. De Paul students are the main volunteers at the 31st street dig. The goals of the dig are to confirm the camp location, obtain period artifacts and historical information on the community and increase awareness of the history. David Keller was a participating archaeologist and wrote a book about the camp. The Field Museum provided ground penetrating radar, but it showed up nothing because a layer of gravel had been laid down which blocked the findings. Row houses had been built in this area, but green space for digs was determined from maps. Camp Douglas at time was located only one quarter mile from Lake Michigan and pictures show that the ground was sand. During excavation, features of the camp were evident when there were discolorations in the sand. During Camp Douglas digs, the following artifacts were found: a toy gun, intact bottles, a mirror, plate, buttons, a company B pin, minnie balls (bullets), broken glass, grommets for a poncho and interesting pipes. The pipe bowls included a head of a Turk, a boar’s snout and several heads of Lucifer, including one with a stem shaped as a violin. Reeds which were replaced were used as stems for most of the pipes. The pipes which were found were definitely dated to be made from 1846 to 1876. Finds from the May dig included an 1859 Indian Head Penny, 1908 license tag for a one-horse vehicle, a hook from a knapsack and two inkwells. When the camp closed, the buildings--which all stood on posts or piers, not foundations--were jacked up, sold and moved to other parts of Chicago. Dr. Gregory hopes to have one more six-week dig at the site. Eventually, a Camp Douglas museum will be built across the street from the dig site. One can go to for more information.

Minutes respectfully submitted by Carol Sommers, Secretary

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