Robinson Terminal South Excavation Update: Ship 3

Alexandria Archaeology has approved a resource management plan for Ship #3 at the Robinson Landing site.

Page archived as of March 9, 2019

Robinson Terminal South Ship #3; Image Source: Jeff Hancock Hancock Photography Robinson Landing Ships

Note: The information on this page reflects the state of knowledge when this update was written. Information may have changed. 

Ship 3 Status Update

May 2018

The third ship (Feature 159) discovered at the Robinson Landing site will soon undergo mitigation. The ship, which was the primary feature visible from the public viewing opportunity on April 14, 2018, remains partially buried under Wolfe Street and is only partially exposed at this time. Preliminary evaluation suggests that it is larger and more intact than other two ships found on the property and may be the most complete with portions of both sides (port and starboard) present. Here is additional preliminary information on Feature 159:  

  • Based on an examination of historic maps and survey located points on the ship, the hypothesis is that this ship became part of landfill sometime between 1798 and 1845. Because the creation of land along the waterfront in the late 18th and early 19th century was largely undertaken by private citizens, it takes extensive historical documentary and archaeological research to reconstruct the sequence of making land in Alexandria.
  • Initial examination suggests that all four ships (including the one discovered during construction of the Hotel Indigo) appear to be of similar construction, with tightly spaced futtocks and comparable wooden and iron fastenings.
  • The hull planking of Feature 159 appears to be twice as thick as the other ships suggesting that this may have been an ocean-going vessel, rather than confined to coastal waters.
  • Based on the visible portions of the ship, the bow, port and starboard side appear extant; the stern has not been uncovered at this time. The exposed hull fragment measures 25 feet wide by 50 feet long.
  • Like the other ships, this one appears to be part of late 18th or early 19th century wharf architecture.

Robinson Terminal South Ship #3 Frames; Image Source: Jeff Hancock Hancock Photography Robinson Landing ShipsAlexandria Archaeology has approved a resource management plan for the treatment of Feature 159 by the developer’s contract archaeologists. The mitigation process will involve backfilling the already exposed portions of the ship to protect them during the construction of a slurry wall that will stabilize Wolfe Street and contain the underground parking garage.  Once this wall is in place, archaeologists will fully expose the part of the feature that is already partially exposed within the garage area and carefully document the remains using traditional and 3D documentation techniques (photogrammetry) before the ship is dismantled and removed into water storage to prevent decay. Dendrochronology samples have already been taken.

Robinson Terminal South Ship #3 PlankingThis resource management plan will leave a portion of the ship preserved under Wolfe Street for future archaeological study.  Excavation of Wolfe Street if done at this time would need to be significant and would create substantial safety risks for workers due to the depth of excavation and unstable perimeter slope; would risk damaging underground gas, electric, and water utilities; and would bring construction excavation even closer to adjacent Harborside homes.  The project archaeologists developed the mitigation plan in consultation with Alexandria Archaeology, maritime archaeologists, conservators, engineers, and the developer, who explored all available options.

Robinson Terminal South Ship Map