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200-year-old shipwreck discovered in northern Gulf of Mexico

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:11 PM EDT, Thu May 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Scientists believe the wooden shipwreck dates back to the 19th century
  • A rare type of stove, cannons and stacked muskets were on the ship
  • Exploration used new technology
  • The wreck was originally detected during an oil-and-gas survey by Shell

(CNN) -- A wooden ship believed to be over 200 years old was discovered during a recent exploration of the northern Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Scientists were able to view the remains of "anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons, and boxes of muskets" aboard the ship, NOAA stated.

Shipwreck found on Gulf floor while thousands watched

"Artifacts in and around the wreck and the hull's copper sheathing may date the vessel to the early to mid-19th century," said Jack Irion, a maritime archaeologist with the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Images of a shipwreck found in the Gulf of Mexico showed that its wooden construction has been destroyed by underwater organisms, but copper sheeting that protected the ship's hull also helped it retain its shape. Images of a shipwreck found in the Gulf of Mexico showed that its wooden construction has been destroyed by underwater organisms, but copper sheeting that protected the ship's hull also helped it retain its shape.
Shipwreck artifacts
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"Some of the more datable objects include what appears to be a type of ceramic plate that was popular between 1800 and 1830, and a wide variety of glass bottles. A rare ship's stove on the site is one of only a handful of surviving examples in the world and the second one found on a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico."

Scientists aboard the NOAA ship "Okeanos Explorer" were able to view the wreckage using advanced multi-beam mapping sonar technology and a remotely operated underwater vehicle, named "Little Hercules." Little Hercules made 29 dives during the 56-day mission in March and April, according to NOAA.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management requested that NOAA investigate the site after it was originally detected as an "unknown sonar contact" by Shell Oil Company during a 2011 oil and gas survey of the Gulf, government officials said.

The expedition also used "telepresence" technology that allowed scientists and citizens on shore to partake in the exploration via the Internet as it happened. According to daily logs posted on NOAA's website, others followed the exploration remotely using e-mail, on-line chat rooms, video streams, and file transfer sites to exchange information.

"Shipwrecks help to fill in some of the unwritten pages of history," said Frank Cantelas, a maritime archaeologist with NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. "We explored four shipwrecks during this expedition and I believe this wreck was by far the most interesting and historic."

The shipwreck site was located approximately 200 miles off the U.S. Gulf coast in water that was over 4,000 feet deep, according NOAA. Until now, the area has been relatively unexplored.

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