Deepwater shipwrecks in our region are usually found by accident, part of the survey work that has to be done for offshore energy pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.
"And it was initially found as just a little amorphous blob on the seafloor that no one really could identify," says Dr. Jack Irion with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
But a remote-operated vehicle gave investigators a snapshot of history: the remains of a 200-year-old sailing ship.
Irion says, "It's in very deep water so the visibility is very good and the sedimentation rate is very low. So most of what we could see was actually just laying on the surface of the seafloor."
There are the ship's cannon, a stove, a large case of muskets and swords, and bottles and pieces of china -- all are surprisingly intact.
Irion says, "It's the kind of thing that as an archaeologist…that's what you go to school for is to have those kinds of moments."
They call it the Mardi Gras shipwreck because it's located next to the Mardi Gras pipeline. Irion says, "The wreck itself lies in 4000 feet of water in roughly this general location."
In a delicate operation using an undersea robot, researchers carefully lifted more than 1,000 artifacts.
They recovered a large supply of ammunition, cannon balls, musket balls and flints, navigational instruments and the captain's telescope, a couple of sets of ceramic dishes, wine and beer bottles, even small glass sand clocks, similar to an hourglass.
These pieces indicate the ship sank during the early 1800's. For the first time, a large collection of these artifacts is on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen.