Divers recovering artifacts off the steamship Pulaski have made an eerie find that gives credence to eyewitness accounts of the night the ship sank in 1838, taking some of the nation’s richest people to the bottom of the Atlantic.
A mysterious “grapefruit-sized” encrustation found at the site off North Carolina’s coast turned out to be a heavily decorated solid gold pocket watch attached to a gold chain.
However, what has historians buzzing is the fact that the watch’s hands are frozen at 11:05. That’s 5 minutes after the time witnesses say the ship’s boilers exploded on the night of June 14, 1838. The dramatic sinking, often referred to as “the Titanic of its time,” occurred 180 years ago this month.
“We were shocked,” said Max Spiegel of Certified Collectables Group, which is handling preservation of Pulaski artifacts.
“It’s very unusual to see an artifact with that sort of impression of a historic moment, when a ship sank. Think about how fragile the watch’s hands are, yet they survived in that exact position. It’s one of the most exciting finds we’ve handled, and we’ve done a half dozen shipwrecks.”
The sinking of the Pulaski continues to intrigue historians for countless reasons, including the fact that its ill-fated passengers were then among the wealthiest people in the Eastern United States.