Lake Waccamaw Canoe Treatment: Waterlogged Wood Conservation

Waterlogged Wood Restoration project by:
Nathan Henry, North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, Underwater Archaeology Branch

This is a great discovery of 3 dugout canoes found in Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina.  These canoes do not have far to travel as the conservation/preservation will be done by Nathan Henry of the Underwater Archaeology Branch, UAB, at the Fort Fisher Preservation Lab in Kure Beach, North Carolina.  The UAB works on the identification and preservation of submerged artifacts from North Carolina’s rich maritime history.

SP-11 Waterlogged Wood Treatment will be the treatment method used for all 3 of the recovered canoes.

Assessing the condition and size – an impressive 24 feet long by 21 inches wide! It has been named the “Toby Hall Canoe” after the Park Superintendent, who made the recovery possible.

As with all canoe recoveries, many hands were and will be needed to accomplish the task. Once removed from the water, it is important to keep the wood wrapped to avoid premature drying.

The strategy for treating all 3 canoes is to start with the largest and work down to the smallest so only one tank needs to be used.

The amount of SP-11 needed to treat the largest canoe will be adequate to immerse the smaller canoes even after the first canoe is bulked.  This necessitates only treating one canoe at a time, given that is all the floor space available at the lab.  In addition to being efficient, it also allows the team to apply anything learned concerning specific treatment techniques to the following canoe as it becomes ready for conservation.

The 24 foot canoe will first be soaked in water and boric acid bath.

A custom soak tank was built to first soak the larger canoe in a water and boric acid bath. The Toby Hall Canoe measures 24 feet by 21 inches and the tank measures approximately 24 feet by 2 feet x 1.33 feet = 64 cubic feet (479 gallons).  The water line was 1.5-2 inches above the topmost part of the canoe.  The space between the canoe hull and the sides of the tank are pretty well filled with spacers behind the tank liner but there is room for circulation of the fluid.  Minus the volume of the canoe plus the spacers the total amount of water and boric acid bath was 440 gallons.

This canoe will soak for 30 days in the water and boric acid bath, before being drained and applying SP-11.
More to come….