Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Deep Gulf Shipwreck Live, July 18-25

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 17, 2013

UPDATE: Live broadcast available here:



From the Underwater Archaeology Mailing List, SUB-ARCH:


The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) homepage is featuring the 2013 expedition to document and explore the Monterrey Wreck in the Gulf of Mexico. July 18th-25th (weather depending) you can view the expedition live online.
Please share with students and colleagues so they can tune in! Go to or use the direct link to the page which can be found at:


Note that the name, “Monterrey Wreck,” does not indicate the identity of the vessel, which is unknown. Deep water sites in the Gulf are commonly named for nearby pipelines or oil lease tracts. From the website:


2011 – 2012 Discovery and Exploration
First identified as a side scan sonar target in 2011, the brief remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive made a truly exciting discovery that no one at the time knew would contribute significantly to our understanding of a turbulent period of American history.
In April 2012, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted the first reconnaissance of the site. The shipwreck appears to be an undisturbed, early 19th century, wooden-hulled sailing vessel.
The sonar target first came to light when Shell Oil notified the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), agencies of the U.S. Department of Interior, that a side scan sonar target resembling a shipwreck had been found in their lease area. The sonar image revealed a sharp hull-formed outline measuring approximately 25 meters (84 feet) long by 7.9 meters (26 feet) wide in 1,330 meters (4,363 feet) of water. . . .
The Okeanos Explorer’s ROV dive on the shipwreck lasted just over two hours, collecting valuable high definition video. The remains of the relatively small vessel, about 84 feet long, are outlined by the copper sheathing tacked to the lower hull put there to protect the bottom from marine bio-fouling. While wood close to the copper sheathing has survived, the entire upper portion of the wooden ship has been consumed, allowing durable artifacts, such as those made from ceramic, glass and metal, to drop to the bottom. The area of the Gulf where the site is located receives very little sedimentation, so many of the artifacts lay uncovered, mostly inside the hull.
From the distribution of artifacts, we get a sense of how the vessel was organized. A large anchor in the bow was probably secured on the forward deck. Elements of the standing rigging along the length of the vessel indicate the location of the masts. A concretion of large metal objects located amidships contains an anchor, several cannon and smaller artifacts. Some or all of these items may have been stowed below deck during the voyage. A large rectangular metal stove resting on a lead sheet (to protect the wooden deck from catching fire) and food storage containers, denote the galley area where food was prepared. Further aft, near the stern, where the ship’s officers likely lived, are plates, bottles, glassware, firearms, medicine, and navigation instruments.
The baseline data collected by Okeanos Explorer’s brief visit led to considerable follow-on research by a group of archaeologists and historians. The artifacts and vessel remains suggest the site dates to the first half of the nineteenth century making it one of the more significant shipwrecks discovered in the Gulf of Mexico to date. The site, well preserved and remarkably undisturbed, is from a critical period in history when new nations were forming at the end of the Colonial era and the Gulf was opening to global trade.




6 Responses

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  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on July 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    If I had to do it over again, underwater archaeology would be the way to go, just for the “wow” factor.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      The underwater archaeologists I know have never lost that appreciation.

  2. H. E. Parmer said, on July 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Amazing how the copper sheathing preserved that portion of the hull.

    Any speculation on what she was used for? I know having some heavy ordinance was probably a good idea in those waters, at that time, but the article said “several cannon”. Would that be normal for an armed merchantman sailing the Gulf? Or could we be looking at a privateer, or maybe even a pirate?

    • Andy Hall said, on July 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      Guns (i.e., artillery) would not be unusual for that time in this region, but for sure they’ll be looking close at those — how many, in what sizes.

  3. jeff bell said, on July 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    This wreck may yield some amazing artifacts and with luck, an identity

    • Andy Hall said, on July 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Yep. I know several folks involved with this project, and all of them were just gob-smacked at the video, and the range of material preserved on the site. Most of what they do day-to-day is extremely dull and mundane; it’s projects like this that remind them why they went into the field in the first place.

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