Maritime Archaeology Committee Mission Statement

To advocate for the protection of maritime cultural resources, which includes prehistoric and historic resources in California’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and coastal areas through the continued developments in maritime archaeological method and theory; to provide a space for the exchange of ideas and collaboration between schools, government agencies, industry, and any other interested individual or party; to promote public outreach and awareness of maritime archaeology; to develop professional standards and guidelines for survey, testing, and research to hold maritime archaeological projects to the same standards as terrestrial archaeology; and to coordinate efforts that occur across California with the goal of sharing resources and expertise among colleagues.

California Maritime Heritage News

CA Maritime Heritage News focuses on providing information on the various maritime projects happening around the state in an effort to draw attention toward key maritime issues that can shape the future of research and management.

Monitoring the S.S. Pomona using Photogrammetry

Pomona was built by the Union Iron Works at their Potrero Point facility on San Francisco Bay and launched in the summer of 1888. The steamship’s career spanned twenty years, a time of remarkable changes in the Pacific coastal trade economy. On March 8, 1908, S.S. Pomona struck a submerged pinnacle off Monterey Reef while en route from San Francisco to Eureka 12 miles north of Jenner, Sonoma County. Pomona became a serious navigational hazard to the smaller lumber schooners entering the Fort Ross Cove so explosives were used to further break apart and flatten what remained of the vessel.

3D Model of Pomona Drive Shaft

As part of the Sonoma Coast Doghole Ports project (, the NOAA/California State Parks team wanted to test the application of computer-vision photogrammetry as a tool for comprehensive monitoring of the site. Divers swam transects over a portion of the site while taking top-down photos at 2-second intervals with a GoPro Hero 4 camera. The images were processed to correct-color, adjust white balance, and edit for clarity, sharpness, and feature definition. Edited images were then imported into the structure-from-motion photogrammetry software Agisoft Photoscan for image alignment and creation of 3D model and orthomosaic. The test proved incredibly successful and will permit routine rapid assessment in the future. We hope to return in summer 2018 to map the entire site.

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Archaeological and Biological Assessment of Submerged Landforms

Off the Pacific Coast of North America, rising postglacial sea levels have submerged a vast paleolandscape that almost certainly contains inundated terrestrial archaeological resources. It is likely that many of these areas are also associated now with important marine biological features. Few submerged sites have been identified and little ground-truthing has been done.

Reconstruction of shorelines of the Northern Channel Islands through time.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), in partnership with San Diego State University, as well as other academic and federal partners, is conducting a submerged landform study extending from southern California to central Oregon. This study will synthesize specific geological and geophysical data from offshore southern California and central Oregon, conduct field investigations, refine local sea-level models, and determine if these features are associated with ecologically sensitive areas ( The research group will survey and sample target areas based on archaeological and biological indicators. 

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Maggie Ross at Russian Gulch

The lumber steamer Maggie Ross wrecked on Russian Gulch Beach in 1892. Note the two slide chutes in the background. Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Library.

On June 7, 2017, a diver from the U.C. Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory found the bow section of a steam schooner that wrecked off the coast of Russian Gulch in August, 1892. The schooner, subsequently identified as Maggie Ross, was headed north from San Francisco when it struck a submerged rock near the former Russian outpost of Fort Ross. The vessel was built in 1878 at Pleasant Point, Oregon and measured 115 ft long by 32 feet wide with a 10-foot deep hold. The captain was able to beach the foundering vessel at the nearest “doghole” port, Russian Gulch, two miles north of the mouth of the Russian River. The steam wrecker, Whitelaw, was dispatched the following day in an attempt to retrieve the ship. Soon after arrival, Whitelaw realized that the steamer could not be saved and salvage operations began on the engine and cargo. Archaeologists from California State Parks and NOAA recorded the exposed vessel remains and conducted an intensive metal detector survey to locate additional elements in August 2017, but none were found.

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