Historic shipwreck discovered amid contaminated harbor sediment

Archaeological research suggests the shipwreck was an abandoned 70-foot-long, 100-ton merchantman sloop or schooner used in the inter-colonial West Indies trades

By Dan McDonald - South Coast Today

Artifacts from a historic shipwreck unearthed in the upper harbor are likely more than two centuries old and may be remnants of a vessel that sailed West Indies or East Coast trade routes during colonial times, according to the EPA.

The timbers recovered during prep work for the dredging of the Superfund site included the keel of the vessel, frames or ribs of the ship and exterior hull planking fragments, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The artifacts are thought to be from the late 1700s or early 1800s and were found in about 5 feet of water directly across from the Aerovox mill, closer to the Acushnet side of the harbor.

Charring on the timbers likely means the ship was burned, according to the EPA.

It could also link the wreckage to a 1778 British attack on New Bedford and Acushnet when 30 to 70 ships were torched, according to an EPA slide show presentation.

Not everyone agrees with such a theory, however, and the EPA acknowledged Thursday there "was no conclusive connection made to this event."

Dr. Gregory J. Galer, the New Bedford Whaling Museum's vice president of collections and exhibitions, does not believe the timbers were related to the attack because of where they were found, upstream from where the attack took place.

Galer said the charring on the timber does not necessarily mean the remnants of the ship are connected to the attack.