A newly discovered shipwreck off the North Carolina coast may show first-hand how Americans conducted business before the Civil War, the Washington Post reports. Marine scientists who stumbled on the find say it includes glass bottles, red bricks, ship timbers, a metal compass, an unglazed pottery jug, and an iron chain: “Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved,” archaeologist Bruce Terrell said yesterday in a statement. Now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will try to pinpoint the mystery ship's age, country of origin, and purpose. Scientists are loosely dating it to the early 19th century or Revolutionary War period, but the purpose seems less clear.
From photos and videos, scientists say it looks more like a trading vessel than a war ship—which "could tell us far more because in many ways those hundreds of voyages, thousands of voyages, really wrote the history of America in a very powerful way at the same time we were advancing and expanding west," NOAA official James Delgado tells the News & Observer. He adds that the find "is exciting, but not unexpected," because so many "violent storms" downed vessels in "The Graveyard of the Atlantic" off the Carolinas; this one, however, was further out than most. The scientists, who study deep-sea methane seeps, spotted the wreck while scanning for lost equipment, and had been within 100 yards of the wreck at least four times before without noticing it. (Read more shipwreck stories.)