INA began work in North America with a variety of projects that focused on early and important aspects of American history and pioneering aspects of American nautical technology. These included a survey of shipwrecks associated with the climactic naval and land battle of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia, the 1976 test excavation of one of these wrecks, the “Cornwallis Cave Wreck,” and the excavation of the Revolutionary War privateer Defence in Maine’s Penobscot Bay between 1975 and 1981. Other early projects included the survey of the steamboat Black Cloud, which sank In Texas’ Trinity River, and various shipwrecks where INA and Texas A&M University’s J. Richard Steffy consulted in the documentation and reconstruction of important shipwrecks such as the Water Street, or Ronson Ship, a vessel discovered in Colonial-era landfill in downtown Manhattan.
INA’s work in North America grew with the work of research associate Art Cohn and graduate student, (later Nautical Archaeology Program professor) Kevin J. Crisman’s work in Lake Champlain, and their work in the Great Lakes. Dr. Crisman’s work with War of 1812 shipwrecks expanded to other early vessel types, and his work on the early steamer Phoenix in time inspired other projects with early steamships and riverboats such as his recent excavation of the 1832 steamboat Heroine in Oklahoma’s Red River.
INA’s role in studying, documenting and interpreting North America’s nautical archaeology and history was underscored in 1989 when founder Dr. George F. Bass edited and published Ships and Shipwrecks of the Americas. Recent projects have included the excavation and study of the Confederate blockade runner Denbigh in Galveston Bay, a project that continues with detailed analysis of this important wreck from the Civil War and a series of publications, and a multi-year survey of wrecks and abandoned hulks associated with the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada’s Yukon.