End of Game on the Anémone Site: Les Saintes Guadeloupe FWI

By Jean-Sébastien Guibert

Just one year ago, the July 2019 field season on Anémone was the last in a multi-year excavation that began in 2015. It was funded by DRASSM (French Ministry of Culture), Guadeloupe Région, DMPA (French Ministry of Army).

The wreck is definitively identified as the Anémone, a French Naval schooner built in Bayonne in 1823 and sunk during the hurricane of 7 – 8 September 1824. The entire crew of 29 men, including captain Guillotin, died during the ship’s loss. Archival research in 2013 for a PhD thesis helped to identify the wreck. The site is located in the Saintes Bay (Fig. 1), South of Guadeloupe, FWI,  in 25 m of water. It was looted in the 1990s and was never investigated by archaeologists.

Bay of Saintes (Guadeloupe), photo by R. Leroux, 2018.

This blog aims to focus on few figures and on few members of the crew that worked on the site for five years and who made this project possible.

Anémone’s project in few figures

Between 2015 and 2019 about 50 people, most of them volunteers, including 34 different professional divers and 6 different students worked together on this project. Three people took part in all the missions and four people took part in four missions (for which they are warmly thanked). The professional divers included 10 professional archaeologists or equivalent (freelance archaeologists, Master’s students, Doctoral students, and assistant professors), 2 professional photographers, and 1 professional videographer. About 15 scientific collaborations were carried out to draft reports, half of which were not part of the fieldwork (Fig. 2).

Anémone 2018’s team, photo by C. Michaud, 2018.

The fieldwork resulted in 63 m2 of excavation units (of which 14 m2 overlapped) over 101 field days that included 77 days of diving, resulting in 922 diving hours. Over the 5 years of excavation, 554 inventory numbers were assigned.

Excluding  voluntary work, in-kind donations, working time spent preparing missions, scientific collaborations, and report writing, the total budget amounted to 152,485 €. Two non-profit organizations supported the project: the Ouacabou Association and the Lesser Antilles Archaeology Association received 96 500 €, and the University of the West Indies AIHP GEODE received 55,985 €. It would probably be necessary to double these figures to determine the real budget for the five field seasons.

The scientific results produced 5 reports totaling 652 pages, 2 scientific articles, about 10 scientific communications, and the cover of issue 49 of Archéologie médiévale in 2019. Public outreach included two exhibitions, about ten articles published in the local and national press, and two reports on the news of Guadeloupe 1st and Martinique 1st.

Anémone’s project in few persons

Among the 50 people involved in the project over the 5 years, 3 were involved for long run.

Franck Bigot was involved throughout, running the material culture study and managing the French West Indies University students involved in the post excavation studies (Fig. 3) He said, “This work has been a treasure for me, it transformed me and fed me intellectually. It is even more rewarding to work in a team. Coming together is a prelude, staying together is necessary, working together is success”. Member and cofounder of Lesser Antilles Archaeology Association, since 2017 Franck Bigot is also member of the AIHP GEODE team. A professional diver, he volunteered during all of the field missions.

Franck Bigot briefing the students and volunteers during post excavation work, photo by C. Michaud, 2018.

Guy Lanoix is professional diver trained in underwater archaeology. He served as head of hyperbaric operations and ship support captain as a contractor for the entire project (Fig. 4). “Careful guys, the site is deep, the work is difficult. Drink lots of water and rest, especially don’t force yourself if you want to dive during the whole mission” was his mantra to brief the team. His diving and captain skills made the fieldwork safe and easy for all divers and participants. His participation made the project possible!

Guy Lanoix briefing part of the team, photo by C. Michaud, 2016.

Claude Michaud is professional diver, photographer, and member of Lesser Antilles Archaeology Association. He is one of those discrete people on the other side of the camera (the one we do not see). Involved as a volunteer during four of the five years of the project, his availability and his picture direction made this project different (Fig. 5). His talent and help will be useful in publication and in public outreach: “When I knew this mission was going to happen, I didn’t want to miss it for anything. I felt like I was part of a project that helped the development of diving and research in the West Indies. I was in it! And I’m proud to have contributed to it as a man of images and as a diver. Honestly, I have no regrets!”

Claude Michaud before diving, photo by R. Leroux, 2019

Those three, with the following 30 professional divers, 6 students, and staff made it possible:

Corine Addario, Julien Alary, Alexandre Arqué, Marie-Élise Berton, Bruno Berton, Olivier Bianchimani, Hélène Botcazou, Mathilde Brassy, Joel Brouard, Marine Collard, Philippe Da Ros Maixant, Bernard Delsart, Julien Garnier, François Jacharia, Matthieu Jousseaume, Tiffany Kirschenmeyer, Renaud Leroux, Jean-Luc Lemaire, Jean-Jacques Maréchal, Guillaume Martins, Jean-Louis Martinet, Pascal Mauduech, Clémentine Menenteau, Jean-Michel Minvielle, Pierre-Yves Pascal, Andrea Poletto, Franck Pothe, Marine Sadania, Sybil Thiébaut, Vassilis Tsigourakos., Students : Gabriel Court, Karine Éloi-Hilaire, Mael Léon, Chloé Maugalem, Maridza Montout, Enzo Poncet. Logistic organization : Christine Michaud.

For more information about the project contact: Jean-Sébastien Guibert, Associate Professor of History and Archaeology, French West Indies University (Martinique), director Anémone project.