Hotel Indigo Excavation Update: Ship Sets Sail for Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory was awarded the contract for the ship’s conservation. Operating under TAMU’s Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation, the Conservation Research Laboratory is known for working with archaeological material from shipwrecks and other underwater sites. The Alexandria ship was packed up and transported to Texas in mid-June 2017, following a Bon Voyage event.

Page archived as of March 11, 2019

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

Ship Sets Sail for Texas A&M University

June 2017

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Mayor Allison Silberberg and Acting City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen address crowd at Bon Voyage send-off party, Thursday June 15th. (Photo, Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography.) 

On Saturday, June 17th, the 18th century ship found during the construction of the new Hotel Indigo began its voyage to Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) Conservation Research Laboratory.

The ship was excavated from the waterfront in January 2016 by a team of archaeologists from Thunderbird Archaeology. After excavation, the ship’s timbers were held in large tanks of water to prevent the fragile wood from deteriorating while awaiting conservation.

To avoid being damaged in transit, the ship was first carefully packaged over the course of one week with the help of 40 volunteers, for a total of 656 volunteer hours.

Each timber was removed from the tanks and photographed and cataloged individually. The timbers were then wrapped in layers of wet towels to keep the wood wet during its long trip to Texas. This layer of towels was followed by several layers of plastic wrap to prevent the water from evaporating, and then foam to help cushion the timbers. Over the course of the week, we went through three miles towels and one and a half miles of foam! 

While in Texas, the ship will be conserved and analyzed to provide further insight into the 18th century ship’s story. The conservation process will take multiple years, during which time we will begin to plan for the ship’s return to Alexandria. For this to happen, we need your help! Please consider  donating today to our “Save Our Ship” conservation fund.

On June 15th, 2017, Alexandria Archaeology held a Bon Voyage send-off event for the ship at the old Dash bus barn on South Quaker Lane, where the public was invited to watch the packaging process, ask questions, and participate in family-friendly activities that encouraged critical thinking about maritime history and preservation. Citizens and archaeology enthusiasts alike enjoyed speeches from Mayor Allison Silberberg and Eleanor Breen, Acting City Archaeologist.  

Alexandria Archaeology extends its deepest gratitude to those who participated in the packing effort, as well as those who attended the Bon Voyage event. It is thanks to the time, effort, and support of the Alexandria public that the preservation of the city’s history continues to be possible. 

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Image 1: Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg examines the holding tank during the Bon Voyage send-off event. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography.)
Image 2: Heavy timbers await removal with the help of a forklift.

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Image 1: Each timber was photographed and catalogued when it was removed from the water tank.
Image 2: Alexandria Archaeology Museum educator Emma Richardson smiles while rolling towels for the first layer of timber packaging.
Image 3: All volunteers were tasked with rolling towels at least once throughout the week. Though tedious, the rolled paper towels allowed for easy and precise application to the timbers.

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The rolled towels, made of a special sturdy paper, were soaked in water and carefully draped around the timbers. All timbers, no matter the size, underwent the same layering process. (Images 2 and 3, Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Image 1:  Peter Fix from Texas A&M demonstrates how to wrap timbers in plastic wrap.
Image 2:  The larger planks often took two to three people to wrap securely. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)
Image 3:  Once the timber is wrapped in plastic wrap, it is packaged and labeled in one final layer of foam.

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Image 1: The warehouse resembled a factory assembly line during the week. From left to right: water tanks, foaming station, plastic wrapping station, paper towel station, and photography station.
Image 2: The crates were loaded with a layer of straw to further keep in moisture during transit.

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Image 1: At the Bon Voyage event on June 15th, the warehouse was transformed into a working showcase for the public to explore and ask questions regarding the timber packaging process. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography.)
Image 2:  A guest peers into the water tank. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Guests enjoy the dendrochronology station, which illustrates the process of dating the ship’s timbers. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Guests explore the pH station, which provides a visual understanding of acids and bases. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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The public had the chance to test out their packaging skills at the “Pack a Pringle” station, where they had to devise a container for a Pringle chip that would withstand the weight of a brick. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Image 1:  Mayor Allison Silberberg greets longtime Friend of Alexandria Archaeology, Anna Lynch. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)
Image 2: Staff from Alexandria Archaeology sell t-shirts to support the “Save Our Ship” fundraiser. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Chris, Peter, and Eleanor make sure the timbers waiting to be wrapped stay wet to avoid deterioration. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Two-thirds of the packaged timbers, ready to be loaded into crates. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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Image 1: Mayor Allison Silberberg smiles with Peter Fix and Chris Dostal from Texas A&M University. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)Image 2: Alexandria and Thunderbird archaeologists, Texas A&M marine conservators and Mayor Allison Silberberg give a toast to the 18th century ship. (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)

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From left to right: John Mullen (Thunderbird), Emma Richardson (Alexandria Archaeology), Fran Bromberg (Alexandria Archaeology), Becca Siegal (President, FOAA), Elizabeth McCall (Chair, Alexandria Archaeological Commission), Eleanor Breen (Alexandria Archaeology), Mayor Allison Silberberg, Garrett Fesler (Alexandria Archaeology), Peter Fix (TAMU), and Chris Dostal (TAMU). (Jeff Hancock, Hancock Photography)


This photo feature was prepared by Alexandria Archaeology intern, Addison Patrick, June 2017. 

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