paddle wheel steamer
Photo Tane Casserley - NOAA
From National Geographic Daily News
Off Bermuda, archaeologist Jim Delgado examines fragments of a paint can found in the wreck of the paddle wheel steamer Mary Celestia, a Civil War-era blockade runner that sank 147 years ago.
After storms this past winter had swept silt from the wreck, a Bermudan government expedition discovered newly exposed artifacts, including fragrance bottles and unopened—but strong-smelling—wine.
On September 6, 1864, pilot John Virgin was at the helm as the Mary Celestia left the harbor at Southampton, Bermuda, which was then, as now, a British territory. The Civil War was in its third year, and the fast vessel—bound for Wilmington, North Carolina—was loaded with rifles, ammunition, and other supplies desperately needed by the Confederate States.
Virgin raced the roughly 255-foot-long (68-meter-long) Mary Celestia toward the open Atlantic, only to hit rocks and reefs. Within minutes the Mary Celestia and its cargo were on the bottom of the ocean.
Salvagers quickly recovered the war supplies from the smashed ship, but the bow, or front, of the wreck was soon covered with silt and lay undisturbed, some 60 feet (18 meters) down, until the recent tempests.