Wreck find surprises researchers

A close-up view of the bow. Marine life is prevalent on the wreck except on the copper sheathing which still retains its antifouling ability to keep the hull free of marine organism like Teredo navalis (shipworm) that would otherwise burrow into the wood and consume the hull, or barnacles that would reduce the vessel’s speed.

Wreck find surprises researchers

Wreck
The bow of the wreck. (Picture: NOAA)

The wreck of an unidentified 19th-century sailing ship has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico by chance during sea trials of the research vessel Okeanos Explorer, operated by the USA’s National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The scientific team were testing new equipment on their ROV Deep Discoverer when it registered the unexpected wreck.

Marine archaeologists around the USA were quickly called in to join the livestreamed dive, which was extended by three hours.

6 June 2019

A photomosiac of the wreck site was produced using high-definition video imagery collected during the dive.

Experts believe from the wreck’s shape and the remains of a windlass that it was a 38m-long timber schooner or brig built in the mid-19th century. The bottom of its intact hull was still sheathed in copper that had kept it free of fouling.

All of the structure above the waterline was missing, however, and this and charring of remaining timbers suggested that the ship might have burnt in a fire before sinking.

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