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Team examining Gulf shipwreck finds 2 other wrecks

Posted: July 26, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Updated: July 26, 2013 8:00 a.m.
 

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Marine archaeologists examining a well-preserved shipwreck nearly a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico made a thrilling discovery this week — two nearby vessels that were likely sailing with their ship when they all went down together in the same storm.

Researchers led by a team from Texas State University in San Marcos are calling it the deepest shipwrecks — 4,363 feet down — that archaeologists have systematically investigated in the Gulf of Mexico and in North America.

"I think we're all thoroughly intrigued by this project," principal investigator Fritz Hanselmann, of the Texas State University Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, said Thursday at a news conference announcing the new find.

"We went out with a lot of questions and we returned with even more. The big question we're all asking is: What is the shipwreck? And the answer is we still don't know."

During eight days of exploration that ended Wednesday, more than 60 artifacts were recovered from the first vessel explored, including musket parts, ceramic cups and dishes, liquor bottles, clothing and even a toothbrush. The researchers couldn't legally or ethically retrieve pieces from the two new finds under the terms of their agreement to examine the initial shipwreck.

But scientists who took thousands of photos and closely examined the wrecks with remote-controlled undersea vehicles speculated that the three ships likely went down together in a storm about 170 miles southeast of Galveston. They came to rest within a five-mile area of one another.

The artifacts originated in several places, including china from Britain, pottery from Mexico and at least one musket from Canada.

"What you're going to see and hear I hope will blow your mind," Hanselmann told reporters. "Because it has ours."

Two of the ships were carrying similar items, and researchers believe they may have been privateers, or armed ships hired by a government, Hanselmann said. The third vessel was carrying hides and large bricks of tallow, and it may have been a prize seized by the privateers.

The artifacts are headed for preservation work at a Texas A&M University research facility.

"For now, there's lot of conjecture, lots of hypotheses," said Jim Delgado, the director of the Martime Heritage Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We may have answered some questions, but we have a large number of new questions.

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