Monday, May 21, 2012


We are familiar enough with images of the wreck of the RMS Titanic to know that these photographs of a 19th c. shipwreck are remarkable - as is the site itself. Strewn on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico (albeit at a depth of only 4,000' as compared to Titanic's 12,000') are ceramics (plates, platters, and bowls), glass bottles (liquor, wine, medicine, and food storage - some with the contents still sealed inside), weapons (cannons, muskets), navigational instruments, hourglasses, anchors, and a stove. The items (2nd image) spilled out of the ship and surround the oxidized copper sheathing (1st image, more photos and video here) that used to protect the vanished wood of the hull.

The wreck was discovered in April during an expedition for the BOEM funded by NOAA to map the features of poorly known areas of the Gulf, measure gas that leaks naturally from the sea floor, and investigate shipwrecks. Of the estimated 4,000 shipwrecks at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, 600 of them have been discovered by the oil industry. During 29 dives over 56 days, the team used the following equipment from aboard the research ship Okeanos Explorer:
The research aids BOEM in its decisions to issuing permits for oil and gas exploration and development, while also illuminating the past. “Shipwrecks help to fill in some of the unwritten pages of history,” says maritime archaeologist Frank Cantelas of NOAA. Previously, the wreck was known only through fuzzy sonar images from 2011. In fact, it was 1 of 4 shipwreck sites explored during the expedition. "It has been said that there is more history on the seafloor than in all of the museums on earth.,"* says Gorrell. This might help us better understand a little piece of history that is in one small place on the seafloor that could be very important if put into perspective."

*I'm not sure I agree with that statement, even though it is also said that only 5% of the ocean floor is mapped.
Previous posts about shipwrecks and the ocean floor:

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