Community Support

This article of July 2004 was written about the extraordinary community outpouring that occurred in support of the historic 2004 research and dive project.

Frolic Researchers Don’t Live by Bread Alone

By Robert Becker, volunteer

One-time anthology major thrilled to have history in her backyard, South Caspar resident Carol Ann Falk spent 50 hours getting her neighbors to endorse Frolic Cove as an underwater state park. Win Bowen transported (not once, but twice), garaged, and researched how to conserve an 1100 lb. 1840s cast iron cannon (for years half-buried in a Mendocino garden). A third donor, Kevin Braun and Lauren Reed, contributed deluxe accommodations (their lovely vacation rental house) for up to ten divers for ten days.

Over twenty locals will cook lunches and dinners for the professional science team who will catalog hundreds of Gold Rush artifacts, set up long-term baselines studies, and overcome challenging swells to dive in a tricky cove. A slew of folks will help with Saturday’s Rescue Relics Day (July 31) at the Lighthouse, when veteran sports divers are invited to make public, for the permanent Frolic record, relics held in private hands.

So if you think sponsoring an historic, ten-day research and dive project is just about feeding and housing a dive team – think again. Certainly, the topflight team – including an anthropology professor, maritime archaeologists, specialists from State Parks and State Lands, an artifact conservator, and an array of eager student divers – needs quality bed and board to sustain energy, focus and enthusiasm for ten grueling days.

Indeed, the extensive range of unpaid volunteer contributions is eye-popping, including: gaining the State Park underwater park designation, fundraising (targeting local businesses, donors, and grants funding), housing, food (especially lunches and dinners), transportation of people, artifacts, and equipment, interpretation (docent walks, public outreach and displays), diving safety measures, photography (both underwater and dry), web mastering, daily journals, extensive public relations to regional and national media, direct dive support (equipment, dive boat and maintenance) and, of course, recording key artifacts from this dive and others over the years.

Last year, after finishing days of underwater mapping and photography, maritime archaeologist and world traveler, Dr. Sheli Smith, declared she had never witnessed better volunteer support on any of her numerous career dives. And the 2004 research/dive project is even more ambitious – a full-fledged effort to record all available Frolic artifacts, set scientific baselines, retrieve (and conserve) representative samples of ship materials, and prepare for managing the newly-designated state underwater park.

Beginning with countless hours put in by the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse staff (Jim Kimbrel, Lisa Weg, and Annette Jarvie), well over 50 volunteers are donating time, and often specialized skills, to honor the 1850 Frolic. To be sure, the Frolic shipwreck kickstarted European development of the entire north coast, when an unsuccessful 1851 salvage effort revealed unknown forests of needed lumber hours by ship from booming Gold Rush San Francisco.

This summer’s volunteer support story started last Fall with planning, budget-making and fundraising by PCLK staff and board members. About $15,000 was needed, added to carryover funds from a State Parks grant arranged by Dr. Thomas Layton, whose two Frolicbooks dramatized the historic, far-reaching significance of the shipwreck. Point Cabrillo’s volunteer co-ordinator, Annette Jarvie, hired as a result of the busy 2003 dive, describes the effort as a great “example how people in this community come together to do the amazing tasks to pull off something like this -both loyal volunteers who’ve worked many years with us and new people who have surprised me with their commitment. The cheerfulness and inventiveness of these volunteers are making the project a lot of fun.”

Certainly, contributions are a two-way street in which volunteers gain perhaps as much as they give. Kevin Braun explained his house donation by recalling his own experiences, emerging cold and tired after ocean diving, and how essential is a warm, cozy retreat. Carol Ann Falk felt the Frolic site just had to be preserved, so she and neighbors addressed concerns about more possible divers on site and less abalone hunting.

Win Bowen, a retired phone company marketing executive, was immediately captured by the Lighthouse, not only for its beauty but rich history. So when PCLK executive director Jim Kimbrel asked if he wanted to care for an historic cannon – a pre-Civil War, six-pounder so heavy it took eight hearty souls to heave it on a tractor – he jumped at the chance. How many guys get to play with (and build displays for) a real piece of history put aboard a tragic clipper brig to ward off threatening privateers?

In short, the Gold Rush Frolic, which carried little gold but helped establish a century of riches for nearby lumber mills, pioneered the unique coastal living so highly prized by residents and visitors alike. As the shipwreck today gains the full scientific attention it deserves, a shipload of volunteers show what making history is all about – especially the unending busy work far from the spotlight and the applause.