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They Were Just Testing Gear. Then Came the Surprise

Ocean researchers stumble upon a shipwreck off the coast of Florida
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2019 8:49 AM CDT
What's left of the sunken ship off the coast of Florida.   (NOAA)
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(Newser) – Shipwrecks are typically discovered after meticulous research and endless hours of searching the ocean floor. In this case, however, one was found entirely by accident. Ocean researchers testing equipment 160 miles off the coast of Florida came across a wreck of a ship they believe was constructed in the mid-1800s, reports CNN. The lucky break came May 16 as scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were testing a new remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, in the Gulf of Mexico, per a release from NOAA. Much to their surprise, the ROV's sonar detected the remains of the ship in about 1,640 feet of water in the Florida Escarpment, where the sea floor plunges in steep fashion. Not much is yet known about the wooden ship itself, though it's about 124 feet long and the numbers 2-1-0-9 are visible on the edge of the rudder.

"The team just ‘stumbled’ upon it," an NOAA spokeswoman tells the Charlotte Observer. "Because it wasn’t a planned exploratory dive, we had to quickly rally marine archaeologists to join the dive via the live video feeds." Telltale charred timbers suggest the ship caught fire, causing much of what was above the water line to burn. "This may explain the lack of artifacts from the rigging, decks, and upper works, as well as the lack of personal possessions," say the researchers. However, copper sheathing protected the hull, which remains largely intact on the ocean floor. Researchers are still assessing the evidence, but so far they have no guesses on where the ship might have originated from or what kind of mission it was on. (A different discovery might be Lake Erie's oldest shipwreck.)

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