Mystery Mardi Gras Shipwreck


Transcript

NARRATOR:

A mysterious sinking, a team of deep-water explorers, and a decaying shipwreck have all collided in the Gulf of Mexico. Four thousand feet below the choppy seas, the remains of a 19th-century shipwreck lie in wait and a month-long expedition is mounted to uncover her secrets.

This is the deepest underwater archaeological project ever attempted in the Gulf of Mexico and a group of nearly 60 scientists and technicians led by the Texas A&M University have only a few short weeks to uncover the clues to solve a 200-year-old mystery. This is the mystery Mardis Gras shipwreck.

PETER HITCHCOCK:
In the Gulf of Mexico, though, this is really the first deepwater archaeological excavation of material.

JACK IRION:
Of course, everything has to be done robotically - it's far, far, far too deep for human beings, so everything is done by remote control.

NARRATOR:
Through the cameras mounted on the ROV, the story of the Mardi Gras shipwreck and, in turn, more of the history of the region, begin to reveal themselves.

JACK IRION:
This wasn't simply a scatter. This was a concentration of objects as they were in the ship. And this is the sort of thing that an archaeologist really looks for....
because that tells you exactly how people lived on that ship. What kind of things they were using. What kind of things they thought were important enough to bring with them at sea. And that tells the story.

NARRATOR:
While the exact year that the vessel sank is unknown. It is believed that she surrendered to the waves sometime between 1810 and 1820.

BEN FORD:
There were pirates and privateers running around. Record keeping was not necessarily a priority for folks who were living here. This wreck is kind of a treasure trove of information about underwater archaeology and maritime culture and anthropology. But it's a very important period in sort of the formation of not only the Gulf of Mexico as we know it today, but also the formation of the United States and some of the Central American countries as we know them today.

JACK IRION:
It may have been a merchant vessel, it still may have been a privateer. It was very heavily armed, although at that time in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century, the Gulf Coast was a dangerous place to be sailing. There were many pirates. These may have been some of them, we don't know for sure. But it's very exciting and the story's not finished yet.

NARRATOR:
Through the preservation and conservation of artifacts from deepwater sites such as the Mardi Gras shipwreck a new window is opened to the history of our nation and its maritime past.