By Richard Thompson - Nola
A team of scientists and technicians have uncovered the remnants of a shipwreck thought to be hundreds of years old about 200 miles off the coast of Louisiana, a scene complete with artifacts like navigational equipment, glass bottles, ceramic plates, and boxes of muskets.
The discovery was made by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, acting at the request of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore drilling. NOAA paid for the 56-day expedition, which wrapped up last month and was used to map and provide images of little-known features and habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.
Without knowing what it was, Shell Oil Company identified the wreckage -- more than 4,000 feet below sea level -- using sound waves during a routine oil and gas survey late last year, a process that is required by federal regulators as part of the process for issuing permits for deepwater drilling.
Officials were reluctant to give full details of the position of the wreckage, in part to avoid attracting too much attention to the area.
Using underwater robots equipped with lights and high-definition cameras, NOAA investigators were used to provide a glimpse at the ship's remnants. As a new twist, the agency, which focuses on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere, streamed the expedition live on the Internet.
More than 80,000 people tuned in, with some pointing out what they saw and lending advice to maritime archeologists, scientists and resource managers involved in the project, said Fred Gorell, public affairs officer for NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
Jack Irion, a maritime archeologist with BOEM, described the find as "pretty unusual, just on the fact that it's in pretty pristine condition."