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Shipwreck off Galveston probed in satellite salvage adventure

Items and sea life found in a Gulf shipwreck being explored by Texas A&M University at Galveston research scientists and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts


By Doug Miller - KHOU

A shipwreck undetected in the briny deep of the Gulf of Mexico for two centuries has been discovered off the coast of Texas, where archeologists using robotic submarines have launched a high-tech salvage operation.

Inside a control room on the campus of Texas A&M Galveston, a team of nautical archeologists and biologists are coordinating the exploration of the wreckage discovered by a Shell Oil survey crew about 150 miles off the coast.

Satellite video and audio signals keep them in communication with the crew staffing a vessel stationed above the debris field, which sits about 3000 feet below the surface of the water.

Images beamed back from the floor of the gulf show muskets, cannon, clothing, plates and platters that went down with the ship. One especially striking artifact retrieved by the robotic arms:

A sealed bottle filled with bright yellow ginger, which was used as a treatment for seasickness.

“We have a lead plate,” said Tom Oertling, a nautical archeologist with Texas A&M Galveston.

“And sitting on top of the lead plate is the galley stove, which has fallen back over on its back. The lead plate, we think, was to protect the ship from embers that fell out of the stove.”

The discovery has brought a team of scientists and explorers together for an expedition broadcast live to an audience watching on the Nautilus Live website.

Texas A&M Galveston, renowned for its oceanographic expertise, is working with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration using a vessel borrowed from Bob Ballard, the famed underwater explorer who found the wreckage of the Titanic.

With the discovery comes a mystery: Where did the doomed vessel come from and how did it she and her crew go down in the gulf ?

The artifacts apparently date from the early 1800s, a time when Galveston infamously became the operations base for the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte.

Some of the debris apparently came from Spain and Mexico, but the guns appear to be British.


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