It was "the Titanic of its time." A luxury steamboat carrying some of the wealthiest and most high-profile families in the Southeast exploded while traveling from Savannah, Ga., to Baltimore, Md. on June 13, 1838. Half of the roughly 200 people aboard the Pulaski died—including whole families and a US congressman from New York, reports the Charlotte Observer. Divers now believe they've found the 180-year-old wreck site, says Keith Webb of Blue Water Ventures. It's partnering with Endurance Exploration—which the Tampa Bay Business Journal reports is also trying to search for a wreck in the Indian Ocean—and says the Pulaski lies beneath 115 feet of water 40 miles off the coast of North Carolina. There's not a trace of wood left. But a 30-foot by 60-foot debris pile includes two copper boilers, one blown apart, the other split.
That’s just how survivors described the state of the Pulaski's boilers after the explosion, which reportedly caused the boat to sink in 45 minutes, Webb says. "In my mind, there is no doubt this is the wreck of the Pulaski." In addition to Spanish and US silver coins dated before the Pulaski's demise, they've found a straight razor, brass key, candlestick holder, and turkey platter. As "it's one of the more significant disasters in American maritime history," Joseph Schwarzer of the North Carolina Maritime Museums says "finding the Pulaski is a big deal." But he would like to see the ship's bell, boiler plate numbers, or some other definitive evidence. Webb hopes to find it. Per a press release, dives at the site will continue through the winter if the weather allows. (The last American slave ship might also be found.)