What an incredible and action-packed week we had here at Biscayne National Park! Diving with a Purpose partnered with NPS to create an exciting week of adventure and underwater exploration for the young adults who have come from all over the Nation to participate in this year’s Youth Diving With a Purpose program. This intensive one week field school introduces the participants to variety of experiences that correlate with real-world underwater archaeological work. Furthermore, it helps to instill a deep appreciation and understanding of the necessity to study and protect our country’s submerged cultural heritage.

Diving With a Purpose carries the following Mission Statement:

Diving with a Purpose (DWP) is a community-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of submerged heritage resources by providing education, training, certification and field experience to adults and youth in the fields of maritime archaeology and ocean conservation. A special focus of DWP is the protection, documentation, and interpretation of African slave trade shipwrecks and the maritime history and culture of African-Americans.

The participants spend one week in Key Largo, Florida where they learn in a classroom setting proper scientific methods in which to collect and interpret data, as well as get a chance to do an on land dry-run of the tasks they would need to complete underwater. Using trilateration as a way to accurately record and map specific artifacts, and practicing their in situ artifact drawings were some of the skills the participants acquired before heading out to the underwater site.

The real fun began when our team and the YDWP participants met up on site for multiple days of underwater research and data collection. Equipped with the skills and knowledge from their classroom days, the divers, along with NPS staff archaeologists and interns (including myself!), set to work finding historic artifacts, measuring and recording their locations and drawing them in situ. Multiple dives over the course of three days were conducted to create a comprehensive site map which was the culmination of all of their hard work. Overseeing the underwater operations and identifying artifacts enabled me and my colleagues a chance to contribute to this educational experience.  Diving With a Purpose, with this one week youth-focused program, presents an incredible opportunity to foster the kind of intrigue and passion for our cultural heritage that will encourage understanding and activism for its protection, especially in the minds and hearts of our Nation’s youth. If you’re interested in learning more about the work and vision of this organization, or wish to become involved, you can visit their site by clicking here.

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