The remains were found more than a mile deep off the coast, undisturbed and full of artifacts that might date back to the American Revolution.
Marine scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon discovered a shipwreck this week on the Blake Plateau in the western Atlantic Ocean. They were looking for a lost mooring, a place where a ship is secured, that was deployed on a previous research trip in the area in 2012.
Expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, Director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory, said this is her first shipwreck discovery since she began examining the ocean floor in 1982.
"I've worked this area for a number of years and even have photosaturation of some of the sites close to shipwreck. It just reminds me of how easy it is to think we know everything about the deep ocean and stumble on something that is a few meters from where you are working in," Van Dover said. "It reminds us of how big the ocean is and how little we know."
The scientists spotted the wreck using a manned submersible called Alvin and an autonomous robotic underwater vehicle (AUV) called Sentry. They were aboard the research ship Atlantis of the Woods Hole Oceanic Institution (WHOI). The expedition has been exploring the ecology of deep-sea methane seeps along the East Coast.
"The discovery underscores that new technologies we're developing to explore the deep-sea floor yield not only vital information about the oceans, but also about our history," said David Eggleston, Director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) at N.C. State University.
The artifacts discovered include an iron chain, an unglazed pottery jug, a metal compass, a pile of bricks possibly from the ship cook's hearth and wooden ship timbers. Below are photos of some of the artifacts.
The artifacts will be examined and dated by the NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program. Program Director James Delgado said the wreck is located in the Gulf Stream, which mariners have used for centuries as a maritime highway to ports in the Gulf Coast.
"This find is exciting, but not unexpected," Terrell said. "Violent storms sent down large numbers of vessels off the Carolina coasts, but few have been located because of the difficulties of depth and working in an offshore environment."
Van Dover said she was excited when she learned the significance of the discovery, but she could not help but think of the people who were on board the ship when it wrecked centuries ago.
"It's a very poignant thing to discover a shipwreck, especially when you are on a boat and you’re thinking about shipwrecks and things that can go wrong," Van Dover said. "It's kind of sad to think about the lives that perished along with that boat."