July 25, 2013

Team examining Gulf shipwreck finds 2 other wrecks

The three vessels full of artifacts were likely sailing together when they all went down in a storm 200 years ago.

The Associated Press

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The oxidized copper hull sheathing and possible draft marks are visible on the bow of a wrecked ship in the Gulf of Mexico about 170 miles from Galveston, Texas.

The Associated Press / NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

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An anemone lives on top of a pile of muskets at the site of a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico about 170 miles from Galveston, Texas.

The Associated Press / NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

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A Shell Oil Co. survey crew notified federal Interior Department officials in 2011 that its sonar had detected something resembling a shipwreck. It also detected some other material.

"Like a medical ultrasound, interpreting can be difficult," said Jack Irion, of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "This case is the same way. You can't tell if it's an historic shipwreck or just a pile of stuff."

A year later, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel examining seafloor habitat and naturally occurring gas seepage used a remote-controlled vehicle to briefly look at the wreck. Besides determining the ship's dimensions, the examination showed it to be undisturbed and likely from the early 19th century.

That ship has been dubbed the "Monterrey Shipwreck," adopting the name Shell had proposed for its development site.

The Texas Historical Commission also is involved in the project.

It's the latest in a series of historical shipwrecks examined in recent years in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1995, after a more than decade-long hunt, Texas Historical Commission archaeologists found one of famed French explorer La Salle's vessels in a coastal bay between Galveston and Corpus Christi. The remains of the LaBelle, which went down in a storm in 1686, have been recovered and are undergoing an unusual freeze-drying treatment at Texas A&M. The ship is to be reconstructed next year and become a centerpiece of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Earlier this year, researchers used special 3-D imagery to map the remains of the USS Hatteras, which was the only U.S. Navy ship sunk in the Gulf of Mexico in combat during the Civil War. The 210-foot iron-hulled ship went down in 1863 about 20 miles off the Galveston coast during a battle with a Confederate raiding vessel. Researchers believe that heavy storms in recent years shifted the sea floor sand, exposing the wreckage, which rests 57 feet below the surface of the water.

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Additional Photos

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A variety of artifacts including ceramic plates, platters and bowls, as well as glass liquor, wine, medicine and food storage bottles of many shapes and colors were found inside a wrecked ship's hull in the Gulf of Mexico about 170 miles from Galveston, Texas.

The Associated Press / NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

  


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