Ocean researchers exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico have discovered a wooden shipwreck laden with anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons and boxes of muskets.
Resting on the sea bottom in about 4,000 feet of water, some 200 miles offs the northern Gulf Coast shore, the wooden-hulled vessel "is believed to have sunk as long as 200 years ago," the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.
"Artifacts in and around the wreck and the hull's copper sheathing may date the vessel to the early to mid-19th century," said Jack Irion, a maritime archaeologist with the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Originally identified as an "unknown sonar contact" during a 2011 oil and gas survey for Shell Oil Company, the shipwreck site was fully investigated in a recent NOAA-funded 56-day expedition in little known regions of the Gulf.
Scientists on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer used a state-of-the-art multibeam mapping sonar and a remote-controlled underwater explorer, Little Hercules, that is equipped with lights and high definition cameras. They were able to view a variety of artifacts inside the ship's hull.
"Some of the more datable objects include what appears to be a type of ceramic plate that was popular between 1800 and 1830, and a wide variety of glass bottles. A rare ship's stove on the site is one of only a handful of surviving examples in the world and the second one found on a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico," Irion said.
Historic events in the Gulf of Mexico that may have been responsible for the sinking include the War of 1812, events leading to the Texas Revolution, and the Mexican-American War.
"We explored four shipwrecks during this expedition and I believe this wreck was by far the most interesting and historic," said Frank Cantelas, a maritime archaeologist with NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
Maybe this is part of what draws me to the ocean. Who knows.
And so it goes.