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Recovery of Denbigh's Connecting Rod

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A diagonal engine similar to Denbigh's from an 1862 engineering textbook.

As the 2000 field season drew to a close, plans were finalized to recover the connecting rod of Denbigh's port engine in Excavation Unit 3. As detailed drawings of the area were being prepared, it became clear that the ends of the connecting rod had been detached from the piston rod and paddlewheel crank, probably in an effort to salvage the engine's bronze fittings shortly after the ship grounded and burned. This 19th century salvage attempt greatly simplified the recovery of the connecting rod 135 years later.

The connecting rod is a heavy iron beam that transfers the forward-and-back motion of the engine's piston into a rotary, round-and-round motion on the paddlewheel shaft. Denbigh's connecting rod measures seven feet seven inches (2.32m) long and is estimated to weigh about 1,150 pounds (520kg).

The recovery of the connecting rod was planned for Saturday, July 22. Commercial divers generously provided by Superior Diving Company, Inc. of Houston made the initial arrangements and supervised the installation of lifting bags on the iron rod, located about eight feet below the surface. As the day wore on, however, an increasing chop on the water and a falling tide made it increasingly difficult to manage the boats involved in the recovery, and operations were postponed for 48 hours.

Efforts resumed on Monday, July 24, and the connecting rod was safely cleared away by noon. It was subsequently hoisted aboard the work platform The Opportunity, which returned it to a wharf on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Port Bolivar. From there, is was loaded onto a trailer and taken immediately to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station, where it will be cleaned and treated to preserve the chemical and structural integrity of the metal. Eventually this remarkable artifact, along with others that may be recovered from the ship, will reside in a museum where they will serve as testimony to the the engineering innovation and sophistication of the British shipbuilding industry in the 19th century.

Click on any of the images below for a full-size enlargement:

s_Meeting01.jpg (13531 bytes) Denbigh Project Co-Principal Investigator Tom Oertling (r.) uses a model to brief divers on the recovery plan. Watching are (l. to r.) Carlo Jiminez and Mike Rentfrow of Superior Diving Co., Inc, and Eric Van Velzen and Barto Arnold of the Denbigh Project.
s_MikeGene01.jpg (11235 bytes) Denbigh Project engineering volunteer Gene Shimko (r.) describes Denbigh's machinery to Mike Rentfrow of Superior Diving, Inc. Shimko has spent the last year researching Denbigh's machinery, and recently joked that he might be ready to "ship out" as an engine room officer on a coal-fired blockade runner -- if only he could find one.
s_Diver03.jpg (11651 bytes) Superior Diving's Carlo Jiminez steps off the deck of Texas A&M University at Galveston's research vessel Roamin' Empire to begin preparations to recover the connecting rod.
s_redensign.jpg (10705 bytes) The British Red Ensign (l.) flies again over Denbigh, from the project's dive boat.
s_lift05.jpg (4356 bytes) The jack-up work vessel The Opportunity arrives at the Denbigh wreck site.
s_barge03.jpg (5657 bytes) The crew of The Opportunity use a personal watercraft to check the depth of water around the wreck, to see where the work vessel should be positioned.
s_lift02.jpg (3700 bytes) The connecting rod first breaks the surface of the water. . .
s_lift01.jpg (4534 bytes) . . . and up. . .
s_lift03.jpg (4310 bytes) . . . and over to the deck.
s_Rod07.jpg (4253 bytes) Denbigh's port engine connecting rod lies on the deck of The Opportunity.
s_Rod04.jpg (13900 bytes) Denbigh Project engineering volunteer Gene Shimko (l.) assists as the connecting rod is lowered onto a trailer for transportation to College Station.
s_Rod03.jpg (14705 bytes) Ten-year-old Brandon Mouton of Port Bolivar, Texas lends a hand, wetting down the connecting rod as it is being swathed for transport.
s_Rod01.jpg (16411 bytes) Sara Keyes, Gene Shimko and Barto Arnold complete the wrapping of the connecting rod before driving it directly to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station.

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P.O.Box 751329
Houston, Texas 77257-1329
1-713-910-1875
fax 1-713-910-1881

superiordivinghou@hotmail.com

 

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What's New?

new.gif (977 bytes) John Newland Maffitt and the Galveston Blockade | Chasing a Fox new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) 2001 Field Crew | In-Kind Contributions  | How Much Coal? new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) Denbigh Wallpaper new.gif (977 bytes)

Denbigh
History

"An Extremely Fast Boat" | The "Mobile Packet" | A "Bold Rascal" | Denbigh Today
Denbigh's Crew | The Erlanger Loan | Birkenhead-Built: An Unrivaled Legacy
Denbigh Primary Source Documents | Galveston During the Civil War | Denbigh, Clwyd, Wales
The U.S. Coast Survey and the Blockade, 1861 | The Ship's Library: Recommended Reading
Running the Blockade Into Galveston: A Personal Narrative | Denbigh Day-by-Day
Denbigh Portrait | Official Number 28,647 | Valve Chest Animation (300kb) | Investors
Links of Interest | Denbigh F.A.Q. | Denbigh's Engines | Denbigh's Boiler
Feathering Sidewheel

Archaeology

April 27-28 Side Scan Survey | May 7-10 Site Mapping
June 16-17 Sub-Bottom Profiling | Site Mapping, July 9-12, 1998 | Dive Trip, October 18-30, 1998
Underwater Images | 1999 Summer Field Season | Denbigh Site Plan
Jerry Williams Speaking Tour | Denbigh Project Benefit Dinner |
Denbigh Artifacts | 2000 Field Crew | 2000 Field Crew Photo Album |
The Denbigh Wreck Site: A Quicktime VR Panaorama
Connecting Rod Recovery, July 22-24, 2000 | Modeling a Shipwreck
Credits & Thank-Yous

J. Barto Arnold et al. 1998-2000, The Denbigh Project, World Wide Web,
URL http://nautarch.tamu.edu/PROJECTS/denbigh/denbigh.html,
Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, E-mail: (barnold@tamu.edu).  
Tuesday, September 05, 2000 Revision.

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