UMES marine scientist moonlights as an archaeologist

  • Dr. Bradley Stevens' new book is about discovering a sunken 19th century Russian ship

    Wednesday, September 12, 2018
    Marine scientist Dr. Bradley Stevens in his YouTube video

    Before Dr. Bradley G. Stevens joined the University of Maryland Eastern Shore faculty in 2009 as a marine scientist, he conducted research on the biology and reproduction of king crabs for 22 years in Kodiak, Alaska.  

    In the early 21st century, Stevens added successful underwater archaeologist to his list of accomplishments.  

    Stevens and fellow scientists donned wet suits and discovered a mid-19th century shipwreck at the bottom of Icon Bay off the coast of Alaska's Spruce Island.  

    The Kad'yak “was a Russian three-masted sailing ship carrying ice from Kodiak to San Francisco,” Stevens said in a YouTube video. “In 1860, it set forth from Kodiak and after sailing only three miles, ran into a rock and (eventually) sank.”  

    “That would have been the end of the story - except for one fascinating detail,” Stevens said, describing what inspired his upcoming new book, "The Ship, the Saint, and the Sailor: the Long Search for the Legendary Kad'yak."

    “The (ship's) captain had given a solemn vow to hold a religious service over the grave of Father Herman,” a 19th century Russian Orthodox Church missionary living in the Alaska territory, he said.  

    “For some reason (the ship's captain) didn't do it,” Stevens said. “And after his (disabled) ship … drifted for four days - because it (was) full of ice - it finally sank right in front of Father Herman's grave” on April 2, 1860.

    Kad'yak's wheel hub image by Stefan Quinth

    Herman was a “revered saint … the first North American saint in the Russian Orthodox Church who had lived and died on remote Spruce Island,” Stevens says in a video he filmed aboard a boat to promote his book.  

    “Well, (some) 140 years later, after painstaking research into historical documents, I found the ship” in 2003, he said.  

    “Over the next year,” Stevens and fellow explorers “battled with other divers over who actually owned the rights” to the wreck.  

    The divers confirmed the wreck's identity when they found the hub of the ship's wheel displaying the name “Kad'yak” in Cyrillic.  

    Thanks to the work of Stevens and fellow explorers, the Kad'yak site is on the U.S. Department of Interior's National Register of Historical Places “for the significant role it played in Alaska's history,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.  

    Steven said he set out to tell “the story of the Kad'yak, Father Herman and Captain (Illarion) Arkhimandritov in the context of the Alaskan ice trade, the history of Alaska and the archaeological expedition that uncovered the ship” by taking readers “into the deep dark waters of time and … to bring the Kad'yak from mystery to history.”


     Stevens' book is published by Alaska Northwest Books, an imprint of Graphic Arts Books; October, 2018.