What started as an expedition studying deep-sea methane seeps along the East Coast of the United States quickly turned into something much more awesome. Marine scientists discovered a previously unknown shipwreck that dates back to the late 18th or early 19th century.
“This is an exciting find, and a vivid reminder that even with major advances in our ability to access and explore the ocean, the deep sea holds its secrets close,” said expedition leader Cindy Van Dover.
Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory, talked about how they’ve conducted previous expeditions at this same site and never knew what really lurked near.
“It’s ironic to think we were exploring within 100 meters of the wreck site without an inkling it was there,” said Van Dover.
The researchers from Duke were looking for a mooring deployed on an expedition in 2012. They never did find the mooring, but they are probably not complaining.
Van Dover and her colleagues notified NOAA’s Marine Heritage Program of the shipwreck. NOAA’s next task will be placing a firm date on the wreckage and figuring out the identity of the ship.
NOAA archaeologists should be able to nail down a date by studying the ship’s artifacts. Several artifacts seen by the autonomous underwater vehicle include glass bottles, a metal compass and red bricks. The red bricks (seen below) may be from the ship cook’s hearth.
The shipwreck is located off the North Carolina coast in an area called the Gulf Stream.
“The find is exciting, but not unexpected,” said James Delgado, director of the Marine Heritage Program. “Violent storms sent down large numbers of vessels off the Carolina coasts, but few have been located because of the difficulties of depth and working in an offshore environment.”
The Gulf Stream has been popular with mariners for centuries thanks to its strong current.
Every year technology gets better and better. Who knows what other shipwrecks are lurking deep below the ocean’s surface. Sign me up for the expedition looking for treasure ships.
Image credits: WHOI