Mystery shipwrecks explored off coast of Galveston

What were three mystery ships carrying when they sank off the coast of Galveston in the early 19th century?
April 17, 2014 3:22:29 PM PDT
Texas A&M University at Galveston's research scientists, archaeologists and students are working together with experts from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Texas Historical Commission and the Meadows Center at Texas State University in investigating three shipwrecks south of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Last year, one of three ships, originally located during a survey by Shell Oil Co. at 4300 feet depth, was mapped and explored in detail. This year, the other two shipwrecks will be revisited for more in-depth studies. The investigation will help determine, if the shipwrecks may be significant national maritime heritage sites.

Technicians aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer will launch a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), allowing scientists to explore the shipwrecks and the marine life they now support. The ROV Deep Discoverer is equipped with high-definition video cameras and advanced lighting systems to obtain and broadcast live video to the internet. The public can watch the mission live at

A tremendous variety of artifacts found at the wreck sites included navigational equipment, muskets, cannons, roles of suspected hides, tallow and even medicinal supplies like ginger used to treat sea sickness. The scientists believe that the evidence points to an early 19th Century origin for the ships and that they may have sunken together in a storm. This expedition will help the scientists determine, if the ships were associated with privateering, piracy, or naval activities associated with international conflicts at the time.

The deep-water explorations by Okeanos Explorer in the Gulf of Mexico will continue until April 30. A variety of deep-sea habitats and features has been selected to be visited and are expected to reveal new and spectacular biological, geological and historical discoveries.