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Researchers discover shipwreck off NC coast; could date to American Revolution

Posted July 17, 2015

One of nine glass bottles observed at the site of a centuries-old shipwreck off the North Carolina coast. (credit: WHOI)

Marine scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon have found a previously undiscovered shipwreck more than a mile deep off the southeast coast of North Carolina, the schools announced Friday.

The researchers discovered the wreck on July 12 while aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research ship Atlantis. Artifacts at the site indicate the ship could date back to the American Revolution.

“This is an exciting find, and a vivid reminder that even with major advances in our ability to access and explore the ocean, the deep sea holds its secrets close,” expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory, said in a statement.

Researchers said artifacts on the ship included an iron chain, a pile of wooden ship timbers, red bricks, glass bottles, an unglazed pottery jug, a metal compass and other navigational instruments.

The wreck appears to date back to the late 18th or early 19th century. Researchers spotted it with the help of a robotic underwater vehicle named Sentry and a manned submersible named Alvin.

“I have led four previous expeditions to this site, each aided by submersible research technology to explore the sea floor -- including a 2012 expedition where we used Sentry to saturate adjacent areas with sonar and photo images,” Van Dover said. “It’s ironic to think we were exploring within 100 meters of the wreck site without an inkling it was there.”

After discovering the shipwreck, the crew alerted NOAA's Marine Heritage Program, which will try to date and identify the ship.

James Delgado, director of the Marine Heritage Program, said the wreck rests along the path of the Gulf Stream, which mariners have used for centuries as a maritime highway to North American ports, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and South America.

“The find is exciting, but not unexpected,” he said in a statement. “Violent storms sent down large numbers of vessels off the Carolina coasts, but few have been located because of the difficulties of depth and working in an offshore environment.”


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  • Robert Fotch Jr Jul 17, 2015
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    Must be a sign that history's going to repeat itself!

  • Mannin Black Jul 17, 2015
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    The NAACP might be offended by this.