Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Deep Gulf Shipwreck Project Wraps

Posted in Technology by Andy Hall on July 24, 2013
NOAA Ocean Explorer: Monterrey Shipwreck 2013
Several pieces of the ship’s compass were found in the aft part of the vessel [during a site survey in 2012].  The compass card inside the gimbaled mount, shown here, is in an area where the ship’s binnacle would have been located.  The two red dots at the bottom of the picture are laser lights that come from the ROV Little Hercules. ROVs often mount two parallel lasers to take measurements and these laser lights are 10 centimeters [2.54 inches] apart.  Image courtesy NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

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Work on the Monterrey Wreck site wrapped earlier today, and the crew of E/V Nautilus is heading for the barn:

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The most recent exploration of the shipwreck ended Wednesday, when a research team onboard the NOAA vessel Nautilus finished recovering artifacts.
 
Items found on the ship included anchors, navigational instruments, muskets, pistols, swords, cannons, glass bottles, ceramic plates and clothing, according to releases from NOAA and A&M.
 
The Nautilus is scheduled to return to Galveston Thursday, and the artifacts will be transported to A&M’s Cultural Resources Laboratory at the Riverside Campus in College Station, a university spokeswoman said.
 
To help with the 24-hour recovery expedition, A&M Galveston’s Information Services Department built an exploration command center on campus to enable NOAA and university scientists to monitor and help guide the expedition in real time, the university said in a news release Wednesday.
 
The shore-based station was in direct communications with the technicians onboard the Nautilus at the site to advise and help direct the recovery of artifacts, the release said. Communications included live audio and high-definition video.
 
From the remote station on campus, A&M Galveston’s Gilbert Rowe, a marine archaeologist, and lecturer Tom Oertling helped the NOAA team on the Nautilus with identification of marine life and artifacts.
 
Researchers still haven’t identified what type of ship it was or where it came from, but they date the artifacts to between 1800 and 1830, the A&M release said.
Evidence retrieved so far suggests the vessel was a warship transporting arms and soldiers, possibly to support either Spain or Mexico in their war with each other, the release said.
 
Besides Spanish and Mexican artifacts, cannons believed to be British were found.

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Coolness. Now the really revealing-but-un-glamorous work begins, with months of work in the lab to conserve, document and identify the artifacts recovered.

To get an idea of the depth at which this team was operating, check out a scale diagram of E/V Nautilus, the sled Argus and ROV Hercules after the jump.

Each pixel is 1 foot across:

Nautilus

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5 Responses

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  1. Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on July 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for the earlier post and link, and this excellent graphic. My family & I tuned in to the live broadcast several times. Between the quality of the HD picture and the outrageously cool images, artifacts and modern technology, this was really fun. And being able to listen in on the live narration was a nice bonus.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      It was a little slow at times, and a friend mentioned to me over the weekend that the folks on the ship were obviously struggling a bit of fill “dead air.” But it’s very remarkable to be able to see this stuff unfold in real time, as the team members did.

      Several years ago I was the shore-based web guy for a similar project, and then the best that could be done — with a LOT of planning and tinkering and effort — was to be able to daily text and still-image updates from the vessel in the Gulf. This project achieved what we could only crudely approximate then.

  2. Jeff Bell said, on July 26, 2013 at 12:41 am

    I just read that two other wrecks have been found in the vicinity

    • Andy Hall said, on July 26, 2013 at 8:13 am

      Yes, I saw that. Apparently the same survey that found the Monterrey Wreck (as this one is currently known) also located two other “targets” relatively close by, that this just-finished expedition got a chance to look at briefly. The other two appear to be similar wrecks, which raises the possibility that they are all three part of a group, that sank in a single event (e.g., a hurricane).

      This is remarkable for a couple reasons. First, provided funding can be obtained, it vastly increases the amount of material available for study of these vessels and this era in the Gulf of Mexico, and second, greatly increases the likelihood of identifying the ships. Individual ships went missing on a regular basis, but three lost at the same time would almost for sure be noted in the historical record, somewhere.

      • Jimmy Dick said, on July 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        Start looking for insurance records. I don’t know how much has been digitized, but we know from the copper sheathing that we have a fairly good date to start with. Judging by what was brought up gives us an era to work in. With the possibility of three ships being lost at the same time we can narrow down possible ships by looking for cases where two or three or more ships were lost at the same time. We can’t rule out the single ship theory either. Now this had to be a fairly big storm too, so look for what records of the era noted big storms and that might help provide some years to work in. Again, they could have sank for other reasons, but for three ships to be lost at the same time by armed action or some other weird instance the odds start dropping.


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