May 17th, 2012
12:34 PM ET

Shipwreck found on Gulf floor while thousands watched

The joy of discovery was palpable when a nearly 200-year-old wooden shipwreck was found on the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, along with three other wooden ship sites, according to Fred Gorell of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration.

Most of the wood is gone, eaten by ocean organisms, but copper sheathing helped keep the shape of the hull together, scientists said.

The artifact-laden wreck is in a largely unexplored area of the Gulf, and when NOAA went in with their Little Hercules remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) for 29 dives, satellite and Internet pathways allowed scientists and amateurs alike to follow along live.

But why was this ship the most "exciting" out of the four potential sites?

It was full of evidence that intrigued NOAA marine archeologists. When the ship itself was discovered, 2,000 people were following along live - including scientists in five different states and "citizen researchers" ashore using telepresence technology.

"You look at this as a scene - not a crime scene, but a history scene, with pieces of evidence that will be looked at differently by different experts who specialize in different things to help date this ship and to help get a better understanding of what this ship might have been engaged in," Gorrell said.

"It has been said that there is more history on the seafloor than in all of the museums on earth. 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."

Plates laced with a green pattern around the edges and the copper sheathing are key pieces of evidence. They can help researchers determine the exact time period when the ship was constructed and used - and possibly when it went down.

The location of cannons, bottles and maritime navigation instruments such as a compass and octant give researchers an idea of the use areas on the ship, said Frank Cantelas, a maritime archaeologist with NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

The artifacts are all exposed because of the ship's decomposition - and because sediment didn't have the chance to accumulate and bury them. The ship is deeper than 4,000 feet and away from the mouth of the Mississippi River, a prime bearer of sediment, Cantelas said.

"As far as we know, it was sailing across the Gulf, but we're not sure where it was coming from or going," he said. "Based on the fact that it has cannons on board, and muskets as well, brings about some interesting ideas that it may have been involved in military activities."

The evidence gives an early suggestion that the ship was constructed and operated in the first half of the 19th century - when the Texas Revolution and Mexican-American War were occurring in the region, he said.

The imagery, information and data from the dives is available to researchers, graduate students and other marine archeologists that want to study the information. There are currently no plans to retrieve any of the objects.

Because only 5% of its floor is mapped, the ocean "is a big mystery," Gorrell said, "so you have the opportunity for the joy of discovering things in the big ocean, which you can do if you go out and you look in places where no one has been before, it often comes your way."

For more on discovered shipwrecks and deep-water dives, check out our continuing coverage:

A worthy wreck for divers: USS Kittiwake

Shipwreck hunters stumble across mysterious find

Deep sea tourism: Voyage to the bottom of the sea

Anchor from Blackbeard ship recovered

Shipwreck exhibit stirs up storm at Smithsonian

Beachcomber stumbles upon historic shipwreck

James Cameron emerges from 'alien world' at ocean's depths

See more on our complete coverage of Main Sail

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Filed under: History
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. noel

    COOL!!! Wish we knew more about this wreck.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gix

    I find meself in need of a ship; and a crew- Capt. Barbossa

    May 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. abdulla oblongata

    were there any survivors??

    May 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manny

      Yarrr We Be Send'n all hands to Davy Jones' Locker! – quote by the winning ship capt.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    How cool!
    I can well believe there are more artifacts on the ocean fllor than in museums...I'll be interested in what they find.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cdgfla

    So if a ship is always referred to as a she, is it fair to say that its always wet below decks?

    Sorry in advance. 🙂

    May 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manny

      It is always wet below deck. If it is not you are doing it wrong, Sailing that is...

      May 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJCowboy

      I rather enjoyed it

      May 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBK


      May 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jack Dawson

    You gotta watch out for those iceburgs!!

    May 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jmace57

    Oh my little Hercules. Hercules! Hercules! Hercules! <Granma Krump"

    May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jmace57

    Oh my little Hercules. Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jj

    After all the hype on here a month ago about trevon Martin why no follow up story? Could it possibly be because the evidence from the autopsy contradicts all the hateful racial statements made by CNN msnbc and other liberal media outlets? Never! His fists were bruised broken and had open wounds. But let's not report this shall we...CNN you suck ass!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dustman

      JJ, did you not get online yesterday and see the headlines? Apparently the guy got his butt kicked and then decided to shoot the kid. More importantly though, you should post comments that are related to the story at hand and not complain about unrelated garbage.

      This story is pretty cool, and the pictures are incredible. Digital images have come a long way.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |

      Dude, life goes on, man. Anyway, Donna Summers passed today. I'm grieving.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      Dustpan this is a very cool article but I'm makin my own since CNN won't touch it with a two foot pole

      May 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Stick to the story troll. But since you opened the gates, I would go down fighting too if some psycho was stalking me and had a gun. Zimmerman called 911 many times and was told to stay away but no he couldn’t he just had to stalk his prey. I think we know who really sucks, trolls.

      Good story CNN

      May 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    jj, are you always this hateful? Damn dude, lighten up. There is more news going on than some vigilante wannabe cop killin a teenage boy!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      See what I mean. Chrissy I'm not hateful but I do get a little ticked off at the blatant non reporting of the facts! Bet you money you had no idea of what I just stated. Why? Because liberal media outlets that you watch simply are not reporting this. Coincident? I think not. Now call me more names. That's what your good at...

      May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      Like most white guys these days he is sensitive to the news sites ignoring all the blackonwhite crime and focusing on the few instances of whiteonblack crime or as it was in this case, hispaniconblack crime.
      Just sayin'.
      Your hispanic friend in Corpus Christi, Texas.
      BTW, I dont know why y'all yankees hate white folks so much, us latinos down here in south texas call them friends and family. No stes chingando to all haters.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. conan45

    "As far as we know, it was sailing across the Gulf, but we're not sure where it was coming from or going,"

    Wow, such scientific insight it bogels the mind... Ya think?!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    As much as I respect your opinion, just because it isn't on the "This Just InL blog, it doesn't meant it hasn't been reported.
    It has.
    On March 28, the funeral director reported that there were no injuries on TM's hands.
    I'll still wait for the trial.

    Simply use the search engine at the top of the page and it will tell you what and which blog or category it has been reported on.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      Wrong, the medical examiner did report breakage of the skin to the knuckles of young Mr. Martin's hands (indicating that he indeed assaulted someone recently) and a gunshot wound. Morticians prepare bodies for burial. Medical Examiners determine cause of death and record other related information to be used in an incident/crime report.
      FYI to the stupid and or ignorant for future reference.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pirate

    Drink up me hearties yo-ho

    May 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jason

    "...on the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico..."

    Isn't that an oxymoron? Ocean, Gulf. Two different things.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      The Gulf of Mexico is a part of the Atlantic Ocean.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ken

    jj you need to go to the Trayvon Martin page and leave your post. This is a "Shipwreck Page".

    May 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
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