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about the underwater archaeology and exploration initiative

The question could be asked, "Why does the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University include archaeology and archaeological research as one facet of its overall mission?"  The answer is that archaeology has numerous benefits to us as a society.  Historic and prehistoric sites and artifacts can play a large role in education, community cohesion, national identity, economic development, and, of course, entertainment among others.  The material culture of our shared heritage and past provides cultural continuity, perspective, and a tangible link to those who preceded us.  Archaeology makes history tangible, not just something found only in a written document.  Through the Meadows Center's projects in Texas and Latin America, we are uncovering untold stories of our shared past and we are developing plans so that we can all experience and learn from our past.  
Additionally, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is the steward of Spring Lake, one of the most unique bodies of water in regards to biodiversity and cultural resources.  Inasmuch, the management of the archaeological heritage found here falls to us for the proper investigation and preservation of what is possibly the longest continuously inhabited site in North America.  Archaeological research and the management of the underwater cultural heritage is ongoing here in Spring Lake on the campus of Texas State University. 
As we learn from the past, we can analyze what was done well and what could have been done better, in an effort to leave a better world for the forthcoming generations.  This especially applies to how we use one of our most critical resources: water.  As John Quincy Adams once stated, we need “…to embrace the understanding that who we are is who we were.”
The Underwater Archaeology and Exploration Initiative has been established to:
  • Investigate and identify underwater sites of archaeological significance in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean regions.
  • Conduct research in Texas Springs.
  • Create a state-of-the-art scientific diving program and facility at Texas State University.
  • Build capacity for underwater research and training programs in Latin America and elsewhere.


An additional goal of these projects are to provide a high level of dive and management training to organizations in Latin American and elsewhere in order to build their capacity to conduct underwater research and manage their underwater cultural heritage. We will work closely with other partner institutions to enable qualified candidates to travel to Spring Lake and receive training, or have our team travel to host countries to provide the training.


the lost shipwrecks of henry morgan
Mexico Cave Exploration
 deep wreck project  spring lake archaeology project
 sunken ships of cartagena  scientific diving program


principal investigators

Frederick "Fritz" Hanselmann is Research Faculty and the Chief Underwater Archaeologist/Dive Training Officer with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. He is the director of The Meadows Center's Underwater Archaeology and Exploration Initiative. Fritz learned how to swim at age three, and has been in love with the water ever since, having been taught to breath hold dive by his grandfather diving for golf balls tied in a sock in the Gulf of Mexico. Having worked on underwater sites from a wide variety of time periods, his research ranges from submerged prehistoric deposits in springs and caves to historic shipwrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the wreck of the Quedagh Merchant, abandoned by Captain Kidd in 1699 off the coast of Hispaniola. Fritz led the first-ever archaeological survey of the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama in 2008 as the initial phase of the ongoing Río Chagres Maritime Landscape Study, which continues on with the Lost Ships of Henry Morgan Project, the search for the famous privateer's sunken ships. He is the Principal Investigator of the Monterrey Shipwreck Project in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the deepest shipwreck excavation ever conducted in North America, in collaboration with three federal agencies, three universities, and three non-profit organizations.  Fritz is also the co-director of the Sunken Ships of Colombia project, which focuses on finding, documenting, studying, and managing historic shipwrecks along the Caribbean coast of Colombia.  The Spring Lake Underwater Archaeology Project on campus also falls under his supervision and he assists other projects in Mexico and Texas as part of the Initiative. Fritz also focuses on capacity building and training for archaeologists and heritage managers in less developed countries, as well as the development of marine protected areas and underwater preserves. He is a GUE Cave and Technical Diver, a Nautical Archaeology Society Tutor, a certified scuba instructor, an ambassador for Aquadive Watches, a member of the Body Glove Dive Team, and a fellow of the Explorer’s Club. He has been widely featured in global print and electronic media, including documentaries with National Geographic and the Sundance Channel.  Fritz regularly gives public lectures and presentations for museums, universities, and other organizations and often blogs for National Geographic's Explorer's Journal.

Sam Meacham is a remote sensing specialist and a highly qualified and experienced diver. As a NASA Space Grant Fellow, he earned a MS in Natural Resources with a focus on geospatial science from the University of New Hampshire in 2012.  He is a Research Scientist at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and also the director fo El Centro Investigador del Sistema Acuifero de Quintana Roo A.C. (CINDAQ) a Mexican non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating research, promoting education, and supporting conservation of the natural and cultural resources associated with the cenotes and underground rivers of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Sam first went diving on a family vacation in 1984 in Akumal, Mexico and has been going underwater ever since.  A dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, he has assisted in underwater cave and maritime archaeological projects in Mexico, Panama and the United States.  He has also coordinated and executed numerous cave diving expeditions in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula over a 20 year period. Using information gained through his team’s extensive exploration and research, he has worked tirelessly to influence watershed management in the region, which is threatened by immediate and unchecked development.   Sam is Adjunct Faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a GUE cave and technical diver, a PADI professional, a NAS diver, a National Geographic/Waitt Grantee and a Fellow of the Explorers Club of New York.  Sam's work has been covered in documentaries with the BBC's Natural History Unit, National Geographic Television, PBS, CNN International and NHK as well as international print publications and online media.   Sam gives regular talks at universities and schools both nationally and internationally.  He has presented at the Boston Museum of Science, The San Diego Natural History Museum, The Explorers Club of New York and was a speaker at the 2009 National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington DC.

list of project partners