Red River

Waterworld wonders

 By Meagan O'Toole-Pitts - The Battalion Online

Texas A&M's Nautical Archaeology Program is bringing history to life -- literally.

Students of the New World laboratory, which focuses on the study of ship evolution within the past 500 years, are in the midst of recreating "The Heroine," a Mississippi River steamboat built in 1832 that sank in the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma in 1838.

"At the time they weren't keeping records; there's a lot we don't know about early boats -- how they designed and built them - this opens early steam boating in the early west, how they operated on the river and how it was to live and work on them.

We want to know what our ancestors lived through," said Kevin Crisman, associate professor of nautical archaeology. "This is the oldest Mississippi steamboat studied by archaeologists."

The wreckage of the boat was discovered in 2002, and students spent the past six years excavating the site by diving 20 feet down into the murky waters of the Red River and digging up the steamboat, piece by piece.

"The paddle wheels and other parts of machinery were still on the boat," Crisman said. "We found barrels of picked pork and corncobs. You don't really know what you're going to find until you start digging it up."