The search for a 19th-century slave ship, wrecked on a reef while illegally transporting 561 African slaves, continues in Biscayne National Park but with an new twist. The National Association of Black SCUBA Divers recruited volunteers to join the hunt and “Dive With a Purpose”.
Ken Stewart, the southern regional representative of the association sent an email a few years ago to encourage members to “dive with a purpose.” The response was immediate, and the following April, ten divers gave their own time and money to fly to Biscayne, train under the park’s sole underwater archaeologist, and begin mapping one of the 91 undocumented wrecks on Biscayne’s ocean floor.
Diving With a Purpose, is now in its fifth year and couldn’t be more welcome in an understaffed national park that has struggled to keep historical underwater sites intact. One young diver even decided to pursue a degree in archeology.
Stewart is the retired copier repairman from Tennessee, who started Diving With a Purpose. Bored with diving the same old reefs in vacation spots, he also formed the Tennessee Aquatic Project and Development Group to use his diving skills to reach young people.
Read about how he was inspired by the national park’s archeologist and diver in the Fall 2008 edition of National Parks Conservation Association.
Stewart also spoke in the latest issue of Archeology magazine about diving and archaeology within the African-American community.