Shipwreck Accidentally Discovered When Testing New Equipment

Photo: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean exploration ship the Okeanos Explorer made an exciting discovery on May 16 — while conducting an “engineering dive” in the Gulf of Mexico to test new remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipment, they found the wreck of what is likely a mid-19th-century wooden sailing vessel.

Why This Matters:  This unexpected find just goes to show how much we don’t know about what lies at the bottom of the sea.  We have explored so little of it. What makes this discovery different is that when they came upon the vessel, they were able to take high-definition video using the ROVs to systematically explored the wreck site. When they discovered the wreck, the scientists on board made a “flurry of phone calls and emails” to marine archaeologists around the country, and then experts tuned in to live video from the seafloor and were able to provide their expertise as they virtually joined the dive.

Name That Ship?  According to NOAA, the archaeologists who joined the live stream suspect that the wreck is that of a sailing vessel built sometime in the mid-19th century, perhaps a schooner or brig, measuring roughly 37.8 meters (124 feet) long. The vessel is wooden with copper sheathing covering the bottom of its hull.

What Treasure Is Buried With the Ship?   Initial observations noted that there were copper and iron artifacts at the site, but no artifacts reflecting the vessel’s rig, trade, nationality, or crew were identified during the dive.

Great Ball of Fire:  The high-resolution video shows that a number of timbers appeared charred and some of the fasteners were bent, which may be an indication of burning. While the evidence is still being assessed, it is possible that this sailing vessel caught fire and was nearly completely consumed before sinking.

To Literally Go Deeper:  You can watch the NOAA video here and the CNN story about the discovery here.

Up Next

Saltwater Intrusion Threatens the US and the World’s Coasts

Saltwater Intrusion Threatens the US and the World’s Coasts

ABC News reports that there is a creeping underground invasion of our coasts, and it is moving inland much faster than had been previously thought, according to new research funded by the National Science Foundation.  The stealth invader?  Saltwater, which is infiltrating our coastal communities and creating unseen risks well in advance of the surface floods that drown our homes and businesses. 

Why this Matters:  This problem will become more and more common as climate change continues, causing widespread displacement across the world.

Continue Reading 560 words
U.N. Report Calls for Protection of Seagrasses, “the Forgotten Ecosystem”

U.N. Report Calls for Protection of Seagrasses, “the Forgotten Ecosystem”

by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer  According to a 2020 U.N. environmental report, seagrass “prairies” play a massive role in the health of the world’s oceans and if nothing is done to stop their decline, the world will face serious consequences.  Seagrasses support rich biodiversity that sustains a whopping 20% of the world’s fisheries, and […]

Continue Reading 493 words
Trump Administration Approves Navy Training that Could “Take” Endangered Whales

Trump Administration Approves Navy Training that Could “Take” Endangered Whales

Last week, the Trump administration approved permits for future military training exercises over the next seven years in the Pacific Ocean that could harm or kill endangered whale populations. 

Why This Matters: The world is facing an extinction crisis. Biodiversity loss is at its highest rates ever across the globe and, without swift action to protect plant and animal life, there will be devastating effects.

Continue Reading 473 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.