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Mysterious 19th-century shipwreck discovered by accident in the Gulf of Mexico

connectVideoMysterious 19th-century shipwreck discovered by accident in the Gulf of Mexico

During the testing of underwater drone equipment in the Gulf of Mexico, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made a remarkable discovery, a previously unknown mysterious 19th-century shipwreck. The remains of the hull were more or less intact to the waterline, according to NOAA, which notes that the copper sheathing protected the ship from the roof. Experts are weighing the possibility of the ship on fire when it sank.

A mysterious 19th-century shipwreck discovered by researchers test underwater drone equipment in the Gulf of Mexico.

A team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aboard the exploration vessel Okeanos Explorer was testing the equipment on May 16, when the wreck was spotted.

Sonar on the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) – “Deep Discoverer” picked up what appeared to be the shape of a shipwreck, that the NOAA scientists to take a look.

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“The shipwreck find, requires a rapid change in the business, illustrating the power of telepresence technology,” said NOAA in a statement. “After a deluge of phone calls and e-mails to the maritime archaeologists in the country, experts chosen to live video of the sea floor, lending their expertise as they are pretty much a member of the swim.”

The numbers “2109” are visible on the trailing edge of the shipwreck of the rudder.
(Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean exploration and research.)

The drone’s dive was extended three hours longer than planned in order to give experts from watching the live stream and more time to analyze the amazing discovery.

“Those who joined the live stream to the presumption that the wreck is that of a sailing ship ever built in the middle of the 19th century, maybe a schooner or brig, measuring approximately 37.8 metres (124 feet) long,” NOAA wrote. “The ship is made of wood with copper sheathing of the bottom of the hull.”

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The bow, the hull and the remains of the windlass (a form of lyre) offered important clues as to when the ship was built. “However, this information is not on the age of the vessel at the time that it was lost, and that’s decades later,” NOAA added on the website. “First observations also noted copper and iron objects at the site, but no diagnostic artifacts reflection of the vessel’s rigging, trade, nationality, or crew, were identified during the dive.”

A close-up of the shipwreck of the arch.
(Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research).

The remains of the hull were more or less intact to the waterline, according to NOAA, which notes that the copper sheathing protected the ship from the roof. Some positions, however, has deteriorated and fallen off the hull, leaving only the edges of the brass plate where they were attached to the hull. All of the ship structure above the waterline, however, is missing, and there are few traces of the ship’s standing rigging.

Experts are now weighing the possibility that the ship is on fire when it sank. “A number of wood appeared charred and some of the fasteners were bent, that may be an indication of burning,” NOAA stated. “Although the evidence is still being assessed, it is possible that this ship caught fire and was almost completely consumed before sinking. This may explain the lack of artifacts from the rigging, decks and the top of the work, as well as the absence of personal possessions.”

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The numbers “2109” are also visible on the ship of the rudder.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer approaching the shipwreck of the arch. (Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research).

NOAA is not an unknown wreck discoveries. In 2014, federal scientists released the first images of the newly discovered wreckage of a ship that sank in the San Francisco Bay in 1888, killing 16 people.

The following year, experts from NOAA and the University of Hawaii released remarkable images of a U.S. Navy seaplane sunk during the opening minutes of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

A low-resolution photomosaic of the shipwreck site, produced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Marine Archaeologist Scott Sorset. The photomosaic was created with the help of video images collected during the dive. A higher resolution version will eventually be developed.
(Image courtesy of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.)

Other shipwrecks have been discovered by accident. Earlier this year, for example, a search for containers that fell off a merchant marine ship during a storm led to the discovery of a historic 16th-century shipwreck off the Dutch coast.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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