Avocational Archaeology in Action: Drew Ruddy, the Avocational Underwater Archaeologist

In our latest Avocational Archaeology in Action post, State Underwater Archaeologist Jim Spirek talks about the significant contributions avocational archaeologist Drew Ruddy has had on underwater archaeology in South Carolina over the years.

Drew photographing a SCIAA underwater archaeological site collection (SCIAA image).

Since the late 1960s, Drew Ruddy has been instrumental in discovering, reporting, and recording important underwater archaeological sites in state waters.  In 1970, Drew along with his dive buddies discovered the Mepkin Abbey Shipwreck in the Cooper River, a well-preserved small wooden sailing vessel from the late 18th or early 19th century.  SCIAA underwater archaeologists later documented the wreck site which has since formed part of the Cooper River Underwater Heritage Trail.  Numerous finds along colonial townsite and plantation waterfronts, particularly at Willtown Bluff and Dorchester, were likewise reported to SCIAA and entered in the State Archaeological Site Files.  Drew also donated artifacts and his time assisting SCIAA underwater archaeologists document sites including at Wadboo Creek and Bluff Plantation.  Eventually becoming a commercial diver, he later applied those talents as part of the dive team that in 2000 recovered the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley off Charleston Harbor.  Since that time, Drew and his partners created Divers Dedicated to Historic Preservation, a project to record the memories and finds of early sport divers through video interviews and photographing artifacts and collections to preserve these early collecting activities in state waters. 

Drew recovering a loose ship’s timber to document (Ruddy).None

Another aspect of this endeavor, Drew and his associates have revisited SCIAA collections to bridge early collecting at a site with subsequent SCIAA underwater archaeological investigations to create a broader record of the archaeological sites.  Pressing onwards, current efforts are directed towards documenting several locks from the Santee Canal, ca. early 1800s, now submerged under Lake Marion, as well as assisting in the development of museum exhibits at the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center, and the South Carolina Maritime Museum.  Drew has and continues to contribute much to our understanding and preservation of the underwater archaeological legacy in South Carolina waters.

Drew with Steve Howard presenting Ashley Chapman with Dorchester Waterfront report (Drew Ruddy).

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