Sea History 179 - Summer 2022

Page 40


Two Recent Shipwreck Discoveries in Two Remarkable Weeks In a two-week period earlier this year, oceanographic research expeditions announced they had found and identified two important shipwrecks on opposite sides of the globe. One was the wreck site of Shackleton’s Endurance; the other was a small American whaling vessel. While the latter wasn’t famous, it does represent the opportunities that seafaring offered to black and brown men in the 19th century. Both discoveries offer a chance for us to learn more about our maritime history in new and significant ways. —Deirdre O’Regan, Editor, Sea History

Industry in the Gulf of Mexico, a 207-Year-Old Whaling Ship Found on the Seafloor


noaa ocean exploration

n 3 June 1836, the crew of the Nantucket whaler Harmony came across an abandoned vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, adrift and “waterlogged,” about 70 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. They boarded the ship and “took off 230 bbls. oil, part of sails and rigging, chain cable and anchor.” The vessel was a Massachusetts whaler, Industry, and the loss was subsequently reported in

by Monica Allen various New England newspapers. The remains of the wrecked whaler were found 185 years later in 6,000 feet of water and identified by a team of scientists and archaeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and SEARCH Inc. When members of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research team were

planning the 2022 shakedown cruise for NOAA’s 224-foot research vessel Okeanos Explorer in the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to investigate the site of a previously located shipwreck that had not been fully surveyed. Guided via satellite through a connection from partner scientists onshore, on 25 February 2022, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilots aboard Okeanos Explorer maneuvered an ROV to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and collected footage of the wreck site that revealed a number of diagnostic features. The most obvious artifact that identifies this wreck as a whaling vessel is the telltale tryworks, a cast-iron stove with two large kettles that was used to render whale blubber into oil. The shoreside team, led by James Delgado, PhD, senior vice president of SEARCH Inc.; Scott Sorset, marine archaeologist for BOEM; and Michael Brennan, PhD, also of SEARCH Inc., already suspected that the previously unidentified wreck was the 1815 whaler Industry, based on historical records of the ship itself and analysis of the wrecking event as reported in contemporary documents. The NOAA team aboard Okeanos Explorer confirmed the vessel’s measurements matched those of Industry in historical documents. The location of the wreck site, 72 nautical miles from the whaler’s last recorded position, could be A NOAA Ocean Exploration crew aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer documented the brig Industry shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 6,000 feet during a February 2022 shakedown cruise.



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