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Alexandria hosting public event next weekend to help explain historic ship re-sinking

Fieldwork started earlier this week on a project to put the Old Town ships back underwater, and a public event scheduled next Sunday will give locals a chance to discuss the process with city archaeologists.

The public event, called “SeeWorthy in the Park,” is scheduled for Sunday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at Ben Brenman Park (4800 Brenman Park Drive). The name SeeWorthy is derived from a new exhibit in the Torpedo Factory featuring digital reconstructions of the ships.

“The free event will include opportunities to talk with archaeologists about ship research and preservation, as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based activities for all ages, such as shoreline engineering, wood preservation, and forklift hydraulics,” the city said in a release.

After the ships were uncovered in 2018, they were kept in tanks of water to prevent the wood from decaying. The timbers keep their shape when submerged but if the wood dries out they could crumble. Some pieces of the largest ship have been undergoing restorative treatment and study at Texas A&M, but timbers from the other two ships have been taking up space in a DASH bus facility since their discovery.

In an earlier meeting, City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen said Ben Brenman Park Pond was chosen as having the least risk of contamination or damage to the frames while also being the easiest to access. Breen said signage will be added to the park explaining the history of the ship fragments. Meanwhile, a study of a potential waterfront museum is scheduled to start later this year and could be a permanent home for at least one of the ship hulls.

Work on the re-sinking started on Monday, May 2, and is scheduled to continue for around 4-6 weeks.

“These rare and unique artifacts represent Alexandria’s historic seaport,” Breen said in a release. “We look forward to sharing the story of their discovery, excavation, and preservation with Alexandria residents and visitors in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and in many other ways.”

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