Jim swims above the remains of Nola, carefully documenting what he sees on his underwater clipboard, a vital tool of the trade

The Nola – Jim’s Clipboard
Courtesy The Sea Hunters/Shipwreck Central, 2009

Nola, was a Civil War blockade runner that wrecked on a reef in Bermuda, and even though her hull is in pieces, it is largely intact, providing a fascinating view of ships of the era. Existing documentation of ships like Nola is rare as they were built mostly clandestinely or records were destroyed after the war. In this video, Jim explains as an archaeologist, what he’s looking for and how his underwater “clipboard”  - a slate with mylar paper - helps him to document what he finds on the bottom in order to enable him to continue his work topside.

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

Jim explains the story of Khubilai Khan, diving on Khan's shipwrecks, and touches on the mystery surrounding the kamikaze (divine wind)

Khubilai Khan’s Lost Fleet
Courtesy ArchaeologyTV, 2009

The forces of nature and history brought Khubilai Khan and kamikaze together off the shores of Japan’s southern coast in the late thirteenth century. Even today in China and Japan, where Khubilai once reigned and where the battles and shipwrecks that marked his failed invastions played out, most do not have more than a cursory understanding of what really happened. Dimmed by the centuries, the details seemingly lost forever, the saga of Khubilai’s fleet has become a legend, a mythical tale of how two massive armadas, the greatest the world had ever seen, met their doom through the intervention of Japan’s ancestral gods, or a typhoon, depending on your beliefs. The legend, oft repeated in countless history books, speaks of gigantic ships, numbering in the thousands, crewed by indomitable Mongol warriors, and of casualties on a massive scale, with more than 100,000 lives lost in the final invasion attempt of 1281.

Determining the truth about these events is in the hands of historians and archaeologists who sift through the surviving archives and the broken, discarded or once-lost detritus of the past on search of answers.

Watch Jim as he talks about how his Japanese colleagues, Torao Mozai, Kenzo Hayashida and Randall Sasaki found the wrecks of many of the Khan’s ships and what it was like to join them on some investigative dives. Was the kamikaze (divine wind) really responsible for the destruction of one of the world’s largest maritime fleets?

Purchase Jim’s book Khubilai Khan’s Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada
_______________________________________________________________________________

Jim talks about the incredible 30+ years he's worked on the buried Gold Rush-era ships of San Francisco's waterfront

San Francisco Port of Gold
Courtesy ArchaeologyTV, 2009

During the Gold Rush period, San Francisco grew from several hundred people to over 20,000. Thousands of vessels arrived between 1849 and 1856, discharging thousands of passengers and more than half a million tons of cargo. A unique waterfront was built that used ships as floating buildings, wharves and streets. A major fire destroyed this waterfront on May 4, 1851 (in fact, San Francisco had burned a total of seven times during the Gold Rush), but the foundations for a successful entrepôt (trading post) had been laid, and San Francisco became America’s New York on the Pacific.

Construction in downtown San Francisco constantly hits the buried remains of the city’s past, and because of historic preservation laws, when a developer can logically expect that their work will encounter important remains from the past, both the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California stipulate that they must test to see if archaeological remains are present, and depending on their significance, to fund an archaeological excavation. Over the past three decades, Jim has been privileged to work with colleagues Rhonda Robichaud and Allen Pastron from Archeo-Tec and Jim Allen from William Self Associates on several archaeological investigations of the incredible ships that helped put San Francisco on the map of worldwide trade.

Watch as Jim talks about the impact the Gold Rush had on the exploding port and how the burned shipwrecks became well preserved in a veritable Pompeii-like time capsule.

See photos of some of the digs here. Purchase Jim’s book Gold Rush Port: the Maritime Archaeology of San Francisco’s Waterfront

_______________________________________________________________________________

Jim gives a candid interview on being a maritime archaeologist

Archaeology Under the Waves
Courtesy ArchaeologyTV, 2009

Jim has spent nearly four decades in the fascinating world of undersea exploration. Watch as he talks about why he is so passionate about what he does and explains what it’s like to work as a maritime archaeologist. For Jim, it’s always been about being able to touch history and to share that experience with others.

Read about Jim’s professional history here.

Download Jim’s professional resume here.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Jim (left) and his colleague, maritime archaeologist Fritz Hanselmann, investigate evidence of shipwrecks under the Rio Chagres in Panama

Mouth of the Rio Chagres
Courtesy Waitt Institute for Discovery, 2008

Jim’s 2008 expedition to Panama was two-fold; he and his colleagues from the Waitt Institute for Discovery and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama (INAC) not only worked on Explorer but also headed over to the Rio Chagres (Chagres River) to carry out an archaeological survey of 18th and 19th century shipwrecks, including a site possibly associated with Henry Morgan’s 1671 attack on Panama. The Rio Chagres was a highway for trade, war and exploration for over five centuries, thus there is still much to investigate.  When archaeologists find the remains of a shipwreck and evidence of  its accompanying human activity, the archaeology-speak for this is called “cultural remains” or “cultural resources”.
_______________________________________________________________________________

 

In waist-deep water, Jim and naval architectural draftsman John McKay, check the state of corrosion of Explorer's hull

The Submarine Explorer
Courtesy Waitt Institute for Discovery, 2008

In 2008, Jim returned to Explorer, along with a team of experts from the Waitt Institute for Discovery and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama (INAC) to complete the documentation and begin the final archaeological report. Jim is Principal Investigator of this wreck, and as such, is responsible for all of the archaeological work done on her. Field expeditions like this are only part of the intensive and detailed work that professional archaeologists and their colleagues carry out over several years to ensure a comprehensive historical record is kept for science and to share with the general public.

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

Jim supervises the mapping and documenting of Sub Marine Explorer from inside the hull

Julius Kroehl’s Sub Marine Explorer
Courtesy The Sea Hunters/Shipwreck Central, 2008

In 2001, while vacationing in Panama, Jim stumbled upon a mystery wreck first thought to be a Japanese midget submarine now known as Sub Marine Explorer, built by German-American engineer Julius Kroehl during the Civil War era. Since then Jim has completed three expeditions back to the sub. This video excerpt is from one of the episodes of The Sea Hunters (2001-2006) who graciously supported Jim in his work on this vital part of submarine history.

The submarine “Explorer” and its inventor Julius Kroehl were forgotten footnotes to history. It is one of the world’s oldest submarines, a vehicle for undersea combat and exploration and a product of the industrial revolution – forged in both the passionate fires of the Civil War and the foundry.  It was the brainchild of an eccentric engineer and inventor now as forgotten as his incredible machine.  It was seen as a means of winning the war, of wresting wealth from the depths.  Instead it killed its inventor, and ended up discarded and forgotten in an isolated corner of the world.

Watch for Jim’s forthcoming book on Explorer tentatively entitled Iron, Pearls and Gunpowder: The Incredible Saga of a Lost American Civil War Submarine.

Read more about the discovery here. View photos of the wreck here.

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Jim speaks at EinsteinFest

Exploration to the Ends of the Earth: Roald Amundsen, the Quest for the Northwest Passage and the Quest for the Poles
Courtesy EinsteinFest, 2005

The thirty-one-year old Amundsen had trained for years to become an explorer. Bathing in the icy waters of fjords, skiing and playing football to toughen himself, he was spurred on by reading about Franklin’s struggles, privations and death. But Amundsen was as astute as he was driven, and it was that determination that finally guided a ship – the tiny 69-foot Gjøa – all the way through the Northwest Passage on his first attempt in 1905.

Watch Jim in action delivering a compelling talk that examines the extraordinary journey of Amundsen against the backdrop of the centuries-long failed attempts to conquer a sea passage through the top of the world.

Purchase Jim’s best-selling book Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage.