Off-season ARPP field activities

By John Davidson

Those of you familiar with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project are aware of the hard work put forth by dozens of staff and volunteers during our two major field seasons every spring and fall. What many people do not realize is that the success of a field season can be attributed to the advance work done by many dedicated individuals in the off season.

When the field season ends it is time to repair, maintain and modify the equipment in preparation for the next field season.

One off season project that made life a lot easier for the ARPP was the addition of a bay to the pole barn at Nutall Rise. The new bay was built in December 1995 by Ed Green, Jack Simpson, Joe Latvis and Bruce Allbritton. The bay provides ample space for the ARPP to store most of its equipment at Nutall Rise instead of hauling it across the state every season.

Another important activity accomplished in the off season is the preliminary surveying of potential sites. In March 1996, Andy Hemmings, Mark Muniz, Lance Carlson, David Webb, Bill Gifford, Joe Latvis and Jack Simpson braved the frigid waters of the Aucilla and Wacissa rivers. The purpose of this excursion was to collect Carbon-14 samples from the Sloth Hole site and to get a general assessment of the sites on Little River. The band of hardy adventurers also took a trip down the Wacissa river in search of possible sites.

Special thanks must go to Jody Barker and Jason Dees for the excellent work they did on the project's 20-foot pontoon barge during the summer hiatus. For those who remember it, one of the pontoons was flooded, and two air-filled plastic 55-gallon drums were needed to keep the vessel afloat during the spring '96 field season. Thanks to Alpha Welding's handiwork, the "Aucilla Queen" was river worthy for the October '96 season. Jody and Jason also refurbished the trailer and brought it back to better than new condition.

The most important activity that occurs during the off season is the maintenance, repair and modification of equipment essential to project operations. Much of this work has fallen on Gene Rowe and Ed Green. Gene has put a great deal of time and effort into the servicing of the many gas engines that are used by the ARPP. Likewise,. Ed has spent countless hours repairing other equipment such as snooper lights and screen decks. He has also modified and fabricated several pieces of equipment to aid in the project's underwater activities. Ed and Gene deserve a big thank you and a pat on the back, because without their assistance the ARPP's operations would be severely hindered.

And last but not least special thanks should be given to Dawn Pinder, Bin Williams, Tim Barber, Bill Gifford, Joe Latvis and Jack Simpson. This small skeleton crew remained at Nutall Rise during and after Tropical Storm Josephine. They went back to Sloth Hole the day after the storm and collected the pontoon boats and equipment that was left behind, and transported it all back to Nutall Rise. During the two week delay cause by the storm, this crew was able to service and repair the gas engines, fix an oil leak on the jeep, repair the rear deck on Ed's boat and paint one of the little green boats. Then everything was packed and stored away.

So, just because the field season is over doesn't mean the work is done. There is plenty to do to get ready for the next field season. With the continued assistance of many dedicated and talented individuals, future field seasons will be successful.