Scientists Accidentally Discover an Old Shipwreck

During a research expedition on July 12, scientists shockingly discovered an old shipwreck just off the coast of North Carolina. Using an underwater robot, a manned submarine, and sonar, the team found what they believe to be wreckage from a ship dating back to the 1700s.

A Bit of Blind Luck

The discovery of the old shipwreck was made public on Friday by a team of marine scientists lead by Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory, and consisted of university scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Oregon.

Whether by pure coincidence or sheer luck, Van Dover and her crew accidentally stumbled across the old shipwreck as they were searching for a mooring they had deployed on a previous trip back in 2012. Using the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), they made the exciting find.

“It’s ironic to think we were exploring within 100 meters of the wreck site without an inkling it was there,” said Van Dover.

No Sunken Treasure On This Old Shipwreck

Several artifacts were found among the wreckage including an iron chain, glass bottles, an unglazed pottery jug, and navigational instruments. Archaeologists who initially examined the artifacts and photos taken of the old shipwreck believe the vessel to date back to the 1700s, which would put it right around the time of the American Revolution. So, while there may not have been any priceless artifacts found among the old shipwreck, the underwater discover may be rich in history.

“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,” said Van Dover.

Finding Definitive Answers

David Eggleston, director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) at NC State, and Van Dover reached out to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in an effort to identify the lost ship and pinpoint an exact age of the vessel. This will be done by further examining the artifacts found in the old shipwreck.

“Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved,” said Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist at the NOAA Marine Heritage Program.

James Delgado, director of the Marine Heritage program, stated that the wreckage was found 150 miles off the coast and was an old maritime trade route. So, while the old shipwreck may be nothing more than a trade vessel, it’s still exciting to know that there are plenty of secrets hidden beneath the ocean.


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