Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sonar provides details of blockade runner, shows cargo may remain in N.C. wreck

(N.C. Natural and Cultural Resources)

Archaeologists exploring and making sonar images of a wrecked Confederate blockade runner said cargo spaces may still contain items carried on its doomed final voyage.

Bill Ray Morris, North Carolina deputy state archaeologist, told the Picket on Tuesday that sonar detected preserved sections of cargo holds in excess of 5 feet – roughly half of the original depth.

“This bodes extremely well for the preservation of a fair amount of the vessel’s cargo as we know from an eyewitness account that she was not salvaged for goods during the war,” Morris wrote in an email.

On Monday, officials announced “unprecedented detail” from the Agnes E. Fry captured via a digital, sector-scanning sonar. The press release included a sonar mosaic image (above) that showed the broken iron hull, smoke stack sections, I-beam frames, outer hull plating and more.

The Agnes E. Fry made several successful runs for the Confederacy before it ran aground south of Wilmington in the closing months of the war.

The state, working with divers from the Charlotte Fire Department and Nautilus Marine Group, wants to create a 3D display of the wreck site.

The specific details visible on the computer screen in the field on our last trip, (but not, unfortunately, in the mosaic), included the hinge detail on boiler fire doors, clearly defined fire tubes within the tube plate on a partial broken boiler, a pair of collision bulkheads and what could well be the deck clamp/shelf arrangement,” Morris said.

The shipwreck was discovered Feb. 27 during a search for the ships lost during the Union campaign to blockade the port of Wilmington during the Civil War.

The mosaic, part of a project funded by the National Park Service, will allow archaeologists to create a research plan for further investigations of the blockade runner.

Morris said among the items recovered from the shipwreck are a possible homemade knife handle and a coal sample. The Scottish-made Agnes E. Fry ran aground on Dec. 27, 1864, as the crew tried to elude Federal vessels.

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