Mysteries Abound In WTC Ship Remains
On July 12 the remains of an 18th-century ship were found buried 20 feet below street level at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. The question is -- how did they get there?
Nobody knows for sure -- yet. And even though there are timbers from the front half of the ship, nobody can identify what kind of ship it is because, among other mysteries, it’s not a design we’ve seen before.
This is an honest-to-goodness historical mystery and we're going to follow it until the end.
Yesterday I spoke with Patricia Samford, Director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, where the wood is now being prepared for scientific study. She said at the moment they’re cleaning and prepping the ship's partial skeleton (partial, because the back half of the ship is missing) ahead of a slew of scientific analysis.
They're no stranger to this kind of work. They've worked with the USS Monitor, the CSS Alabama, Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge and they'll probably help with anything found in the USS Scorpion dig site in Maryland's Patuxent River.
We’ll likely pay the lab a visit -- with video camera in tow -- once the heavy lifting gets underway. In the meantime, I’ll report back with any further developments as Patricia and her crew try to learn the back story of this ship. I’ll also be reaching out to *you* though various social media means to see if we can answer any questions you might have directly.
And while dead men may tell no tales, here's just a taste of what long-forgotten ship timbers can tell us:
* Where the Trees Came From: Since the wood itself can be identified by geography, they can tell where in the U.S. the wood was grown.
When The Tree Was Cut Down: Once they know where the wood came from, they can compare tree rings from other wood samples from that area and identify what year the tree was cut down.
Where The Ship Sailed: Specific species of woodworms live in specific areas of the ocean. Ships can pick them up like passport stamps as they enter various ports. By looking at what types of woodworms left traces in the ship timbers, one can figure out which ports the ship visited long ago.
For more on the timbers' arrival, here's a good recounting a la washingtonpost.com.
More photos: see slide show