URI Grad Robinson Discovers Ship Graveyard in Providence River

Sunday, March 06, 2016


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University of Rhode Island graduate school of oceanography David Robinson has discovered the largest ship graveyard in the state in the Providence River. Robinson has found the remains of more than two dozen old ships dating back to the mid 19th century. 

The remains spread across 33 acres of Green Jacket Shoal off Bold Point in Providence Harbor and include five steamboats, six sailing ships and 15 barges. Robinson is mapping and researching the site in a study for federal, state and local agencies. 

“The site is a cultural landscape with rare physical evidence of Providence’s heyday as a maritime hub and industrial port that served as a link between Boston and New York. It’s a unique site that is extraordinarily visible and accessible to the public. More than 100,000 cars a day drive by the site, which amounts to tens of millions a year. That’s incredible," said Robinson. 

Two of Robinson's most amazing finds are the Mount Hope and Bay Queen, both paddle-wheel steamships from the 1800s . 

When Robinson finishes his research, he will send his report to Rhode Island Sea Grant, who will then pass along his findings to the Coastal Resources Management Council, Rhode Island Historical and Heritage Preservation Commission, local communities and other agencies. 

A decision on what to do with the graveyard will be made then. 

Robinson to Speak at URI 

Robinson will give a free talk about his research on Thursday, March 17 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Coastal Institute Auditorium located on 918 South Ferry Road at URI's Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett. 

Those attending can expect to see photos of Robinson's work as well as videos he has taken of the vessels, most of which are in good shape. 

The talk will be part of the annual Coastal State Discussion Series. 

Click here to register. 

David Robinson 

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Robinson made his first dives at the age of 15, including one off Bonnet Point to glimpse the wreck of the 1872 side wheel steamboat, 

Robinson graduated from URI in 1990 with a dual degree in art and anthropology and then earned his master's degree in anthropology, specializing in shipwreck archeology from Texas A&M University. 

Robinson teamed up with GSO's John King King in 2012 to work on a study with the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office. The team is developing best practice protocols for identifying and protecting ancient Native American cultural sites preserved on the ocean floor.

“I’m getting to do what I enjoyed doing as a kid and with the same people I was with then, as well as family and colleagues. It seems like life has come full circle. I’m lucky to have a career that allows me to do what I like best—research and explore history underwater and share my interest and knowledge about the past. It’s a great life," Robinson said. 

Robinson is 51 years old and is a resident of Jamestown. 


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