Run A’Ground Zero

We all know progress at the World Trade Center construction site has been a wreck, but now they’ve actually discovered a shipwreck at Ground Zero! Apparently it was common back in the 18-19th century to use sunken ships as cribbing to extend land into water, in this case, for lower Manhattan. Below are some interesting excerpts from the full article:

The ship was buried as junk two centuries ago – landfill to expand a bustling little island of commerce called Manhattan. When it re-emerged this week, surrounded by skyscrapers, it was an instant treasure that popped up from the mud near ground zero.

Historians say the ship, believed to date to the 1700s, was defunct by the time it was used around 1810 to extend the shores of lower Manhattan.

Brower, the historian, works in Mystic, Connecticut – renowned for its historic vessels. He told the archaeologists that it was an oceangoing vessel that might have sailed the Caribbean, as evidenced by 18th-century marine organisms that had bored tiny tunnels in the timber.

The vessel’s age will be estimated after the two pieces that first popped up are tested in a laboratory through dendrochronology – the science of using tree rings to determine dates and chronological order. Also unknown is what kind of wood was used to build the ship.

A 100-pound iron anchor was found a few yards from the hull, possibly from the old vessel.

There were also traces of human life nearby – “pieces of shoes all over,” said McDonald, who had no idea how they got there.

The ship likely got there because of the effort to extend lower Manhattan into the Hudson River in the 1700s and 1800s using landfill. Cribbing usually consisted of logs joined together – much like a log cabin – but a derelict ship was occasionally used.

The ship discovered Tuesday was weighted down and sunk to the bottom of the river, as support for new city piers in a part of Manhattan tied to global commerce and trade.

A similar find emerged a walk away in 1982, when archaeologists found an 18th-century cargo ship on Water Street.

Another fascinating detail might emerge as work progresses: coins traditionally placed under a vessel’s keel block as a symbol of good fortune and safe travels.

But the team is already feeling pretty lucky. “I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed,” Pappalardo said.

Shipwreck photo from NZ Herald
Blog post title courtesy of Butchy

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