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200-Year-Old Shipwreck Found on Gulf of Mexico Known to be Deepest in the U.S.

Ian Harvey

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Researchers from Texas State University in San Marcos believe they have found what could be a 200-year-old shipwreck three quarters of a mile below the Gulf of Mexico.  Although the ship is quite old, it is said the shipwreck is well preserved. The research team is calling this the deepest shipwreck that has ever been found in the Gulf of Mexico or in North America altogether.  The ship is 4,363 feet below the surface.

The team is still amazed as to how well the wreckage has fared over the years.  It is possible to see the 84-foot long by 26-foot wide hull of the copper-clad sailing vessel as well as what could possibly be two masts.  A researcher who studies water and environment said that it is amazing that the wreckage is in such a great state of preservation.  He is absolutely thrilled that they have found a piece of history that they can now research and share with other people.

But the thing that is setting the research team back is the fact that the ship is so far under the water.  Divers are not able to reach the ship because of the sea pressure, so they have to resort to using remote-controlled vehicles.  These vehicles can reach every nook and cranny and have robot arms to remove things from the site.  Some of the items that were found in or near the ship were ceramics, liquor bottles, and an octant (a navigational tool). Other items included muskets, swords, cannons, and clothing.  One precious item was a bottle filled with ginger, which would have helped crew members fight sea sickness.

A team researcher said that the more items they find, the more likely they will be able to tell just how old the wreckage is and what its function was.  They will also be able to tell whether it was coming to or going from the area near the Gulf of Mexico where it was found.

The research team was notified by the Shell Oil Company that their sonar had detected something in 2011.  The crew members on the Shell ship felt that the sonar image depicted a shipwreck.  After confirming that it was in fact a shipwreck, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration examined the sea floor near the wreck and noticed natural gas seepage.  The small robot determined the dimensions of the ship and from what the researchers could tell, it appeared to be a ship from the 19th century.

This photo provided by the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program shows a variety of artifacts including ceramic plates, platters, bowls plus glass liquor, wine, medicine, and food storage bottles of many shapes and colors found inside a wrecked ship's hull. source

This photo provided by the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program shows a variety of artifacts including ceramic plates, platters, bowls plus glass liquor, wine, medicine, and food storage bottles of many shapes and colors found inside a wrecked ship’s hull. source

Although the date has been determined, the name of the ship has not.  It is referred to as the “Monterrey Shipwreck” after the name Shell Oil had given the area.  The Monterrey is actually the third in a series of shipwrecks found in the same area around the Gulf of Mexico.

Unlike the Monterrey find, the other two shipwrecks have been identified.  The first ship, found in 1995, was sailed by French explorer La Salle.  It was found near Galveston and Corpus Christi, and was identified as the LaBelle, which was said to have gone down in a storm in 1686.  Thankfully, LaBelle was shallow enough that it could be taken out of the ocean to be researched.  The ship is at Texas A&M University undergoing an unusual freeze-drying treatment.  Researchers hope that in the next year or so that the ship will be reconstructed and shown at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The second ship that was found in this area was just 20 miles off the Galveston coast.  The same 3-D technology was used to view the site, and researchers were able to see the name on the remains.  It was of the USS Hatteras, which was the only U.S. Navy ship to have been sunk in battle during the Civil War.  The ship sank in 1863 in 57 feet of water.  Researchers believe that shifts in the ocean floor have exposed the ship.

 

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