By Ted Hayes - East Bay RI
A shipwreck that lies half buried in the muck and sand of an Argentinian bay could be the last remains of a whaling vessel that was built in and sailed out of Warren during the waning years of American whaling.
Marine archaeologists from Argentina's National Institute of Anthropology believe they may have found the remains of the Dolphin, a 110-foot whaling bark built in 1850 by Chace and Davis, a shipbuilding firm in operation between Company and Sisson streets for much of the 19th century.
The wreck is beached along the coast of Argentina at Puerto Madryn in Bahia Nueva (New Bay), 5,900 miles by air from Warren. Parts of it show signs of having been burned and it is partially visible at low tide.
Much of the structure above the keel is gone, leaving a section of wreckage about 80 feet long.
Argentinian archaeologist Cristian Murray said that while some locals had known about the wreck for many years, it was first noted by archaeologists in 2002 when shifting sands revealed a larger area of wreckage than was previously visible.
Field work at the site is mostly complete, and the focus now is on coming up with a preservation plan to prevent its deterioration, and positively identifying the wreck.
The detective work has been aided by the Warren Preservation Society and Walter Nebiker, the author of a comprehensive history of Warren whaling that is as yet unpublished.
"The archaeological evidence is consistent with the documentary evidence that we have already found about this ship, but we can not confirm (the identity) until we make comparisons with other documents, like the ship plans, that we could not find yet," Mr. Murray wrote in an e-mail to the Times this week.