Sonar spots centuries-old shipwreck dating to the American Revolution

Marine scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon have accidentally discovered a previously unknown shipwreck that rests almost a mile below the waters off the North Carolina coast. Artifacts that have been found the site hints that wreck could date from the days of the American Revolution.

The discovery was made while scanning sonar from the scientific expedition on July 12th, on the Atlantis the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) research ship.

The wreck was spotted with the aid of WHOI’s robotic autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry and the manned submersible Alvin. The research team was looking for a mooring that was lost in the previous expedition in 2012.

The artifacts recovered from the shipwreck’s broken remains include an iron chain, timber, red bricks which could possibly from the ship’s hearth, glass bottles, unglazed pottery jug, metal compass and a number of navigational instruments.

The wreck appears to be from the late 18 or early 19 century in a period when the US after becoming independent was expanding its trade with the rest of the world.

Expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, who is the director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory said that it is surprising how the wreck site evaded discovery more since they were using Sentry to scour the adjacent area that was just 100 meters from the wreck site during the 2012 expedition.


After discovering the wreck, Cindy at once alerted the NOAA’s Marine Heritage Program of their discovery. The NOAA program will now try to calculate the age and the identity of the ship.

According to Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist at the Marine Heritage Program, it will be possible to determine the age and the nationality of the ship after examining the ceramics, bottles and artifacts.

Terrell said that the artifacts are lying more than one mile deep in near-freezing temperatures, and this has ensured that the site is undisturbed and well preserved.