Part 2- Treasure of Arabia....
Sep 30, 2010
|Before you check out today's pictures I recommend viewing the short video linked to in yesterday's post. I believe if you do so, the pictures will have more impact/ meaning for you. I'll post the link again at the bottom of this post in case you missed it. I'm also including a bit of information on the process involved in maintaining the integrity and beauty of these 'treasures'.
When the Steamboat Arabia was uncovered, the 185-foot-long boat looked as it did more than a century ago. The oak hull and pine deck had been preserved in the silt and water, where no air could reach them. Excavators have been working night and day since they pulled the cargo from the boat to keep the pieces from deteriorating. They're using watering tanks to soak the wooden items in a solution of polyethylene glycol.
Jerry Mackey of the salvage operation says it's the same experimental process used in the Bert rand project: "Very little has been done in the area of fresh-water excavation. Mostly when you think of a boat, you're talking about salt water. There's a lot that's been done in that area, but it doesn't work in fresh water, necessarily, so we have a totally new process to do."
Artifacts from the Arabia are washed mainly with water, because other cleaning agents may be harmful. That lesson was learned from the Bertrand effort (a 1968-59 excavation of a sternwheel mountain boat). The Conservator for the Iowa project and a consultant on Arabia's stabilization efforts, Mayda Jensen, says the Arabia salvager's can benefit much from the mistakes made in the stabilization of the Bertrand artifacts: "We found that the less people did to some types of materials the better, like the canned food stuffs, including pickles, which were bright green. Some of the jars found on the Bertrand were injected with formaldehyde to keep them from decaying, and those bottles have turned a gray-green. Those bottles that were just kept refrigerated are very vivid and bright, and haven't changed at all. "
The Arabia partners have set up a cooling area for perishable items, including food, liquor, and medicine. Workers have sealed each bottle with paraffin to prevent corks from sliding out and exposing the contents to oxygen. The salvager's estimate it will take a year just to catalog the artifacts.
Another major task was digging an 80 x 20 pit for the steamship's pieces. The Arabia must also be soaked in polyethylene glycol to prevent it from drying and deteriorating. So far, the partners have spent more than $700,000 on the Arabia. They plan to display some pieces of the steamboat, a paddlewheel, and the ship's contents in the Kansas City area by the end of the summer. But preservation efforts and work to gather historical information will continue for years.
Many said the steamboat sank with barrels of whiskey and gold aboard. Although the excavators didn't find either, they did uncover the following: (This is a partial list of course)
* jewelry, including six gold wedding bands, earrings, and brooches
* one three-inch China doll, known as "Frozen Charlotte"
* hundreds of pieces of J. Wedgwood and Davenport China, including the "Cypress" and Fri burg" patterns
* bottles of champagne, cognac, and wine and a barrel of ale
* jars of pickles, relish, and pie fruits
* wooden crates of butter and cheese
* felt and beaver hats
* bolts of fine silk, cotton, and wool
* ivory lice combs
* 48 Flintlock Ignition system for firearms developed in the early 16th century. It superseded the matchlock and the wheel lock and remained in use until the mid-19th century. The most successful version, the true flintlock, was invented in France in the 17th century. Rifles (from markings on the barrel, they were identified as 1855 Belgian-made guns and were used for trading with the Indians)
* thousands of buttons and Indian trading beads
* wire-rimmed eyeglasses
* parts of prefabricated houses
* powder flasks
* whale oil lamps
* glass vials of perfume
* leather goods, including buggy whips, saddles, and boots
(there is no right or left because they were made to fit either foot)
* skeleton of a mule tied to the boat (the saddle was still draped around its ribcage)
* an 1856 penny (this was the last artifact taken from the Arabia, found lying on the boat's deck)
David Hawley, one of the five excavators, calls it "a lifetime effort to excavate the boat, preserve the artifacts, and establish a location to display the pieces."
Bottom line for us, with its one-of-a-kind story, close encounters with authentic evidence of history, and a mix of emotional, historic and technical interpretation, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is awesome!
To watch the video, click Museum Info and then Arabia Video at the link below: