Category Archives: Nautical Archaeology

Archaeology Magazine Highlights a Civil War Shipwreck, the Mary Celeste

This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the Civil War Shipwreck of the Mary Celeste off the coast of Bermuda. The steamship Mary Celeste sunk off the coast of Bermuda on September 6, 1864. Archaeologists of the Waitt Institute in conjunction with NOAA have been working to bring new light to the Civil War shipwreck and highlighted numerous, distinct finds.

To learn more about the excavation, read the article in this month’s Archaeology Magazine: Letters from Bermuda.

Stunning Photos: Underwater Archaeology

Today, National Geographic highlights their stunning collection of photographs of underwater archaeology.

To see their collection, check out this article from National Geographic.

Roman Shipwreck Full of Wine Jars Found in Mediterranean

Nautical Archaeologists have recently discovered a Roman era shipwreck off of the coast of Albania. The wreck, which dates to the 1st century BCE was filled with amphorae used to store wine. Archaeologists believe that merchants were transporting the wine from Albania’s vineyards to be sold throughout the Mediterranean.

In spite of its age and relatively shallow depth (50 m below sea level), the wreck is remarkably well preserved and nearly all of the vessel seem to be in tact. Both American and Albanian archaeologists will work together to excavate the findings and are excited about the potential for insight it provides about this period in Roman history.

To read more about the wreck and its findings, see this article on MSNBC.

Museum Restoring USS Monitor’s Engine

The Battle of the USS Monitor & the CSS Virginia

The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia is currently working to restore and reconstruct the innovative engines of the USS Monitor. The USS Monitor was one of the first ironclad naval vessels in the United States and was constructed to confront new Confederate naval technologies that were being employed to break the Union blockade. Most famously, the USS Monitor clashed with the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) in the first battle involving ironclad ships in Hampton Roads, Virginia. While officially the battle was a standstill, the Monitor was successful in that it prevented the CSS Virginia from breaching the Union blockade.

In a brutal storm in 1862, the Monitor sunk off the coast of Cape Hatteras in the notorious “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The wreck was rediscovered in 1973 and declared a protected national landmark in 1983. You can read about that expedition in National Geographic’s article: “Civil War Wreck Rises Again: Restoring the Monitor.” This month’s National Geographic highlights the efforts of the Mariner’s Museum to reconstruct and restore the innovative engines of the ill-fated ship in this article: “Monitor’s Innovative Engine Being Restored at Virginia Museum.”

Ship From Ill-Fated Spanish Armada (1588) Discovered off the Coast of Ireland

Nautical Archaeologists have recently discovered a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland that they believe to have belonged to the ill-fated 1588 expedition to England.

In 1588, the Spanish Armada at 130 strong set sail to England with the intent of deposing Queen Elizabeth I. At the time, the Catholic country of Spain was embroiled is an undeclared ‘war,’ termed the Anglo-Spanish War, with Protestant England.

The ill-fated Armada, considered at the time a legitimate threat to the powerful nation of England, was all but destroyed in a storm off the coast of Ireland. Of the original fleet, fewer than 50 made it back him to Spain with the invasion never having taken place.

The unfriendly waters off the coast of Ireland make discovery and excavation difficult, but this new piece is anticipated to be a source of national pride for the people of England. Read more about the discovery in this article of the Belfast Telegraph.

Lost Fleet of Captain Morgan Found?

Underwater archaeologists have uncovered the remains of what they believe are three ships that belonged to the infamous Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan.

Morgan was an English privateer (a common euphemism for political pirates) that targeted the Spanish fleet during the 17th century. Henry Morgan was, arguably, the most successful and bloodthirsty of the English pirates operating in the region under the official sanction of the British monarchy.

In 1671, Morgan and his men lay siege to the Spanish Fort Castillo de San Lorenzo in Panama. While ultimately successful, he lost his flag ship and several other vessels in the process.

Archaeologists of the wrecks have uncovered a series of wooden planks, 17th century canons, and the odds and ends one would expect on a sea-faring vessel of the day (but no gold). To read more about the find, check out the video and article at MSNBC.

BP Oil-Spill Cleanup Reveals Ancient Artifacts

The BP oil spill in the Gulf is currently the greatest ecological disaster in human history – devastating wildlife and gulf-based businesses alike. However, one surprising positive (of the very few) to come out of this tragedy has been that the clean-up has sparked and unprecedented number of archaeological discoveries. Animal bones, weaponry, pottery, and more, attributed to pre-historic native settlements, have been identified.

So far, teams of archaeologists hired by the oil giant have visited more than 100 sites and sent back a growing list of finds to labs for radiocarbon dating and other tests, though extensive excavations haven’t been done. Scholars have also accompanied cleanup crews to make sure they don’t unwittingly throw away relics.

To read more about the archaeological studies in the Gulf, check out the article at the Seattle Times.