NOAA announces the discovery of the wreck of a 207-year-old whaling ship, called Industry, found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA Ocean Exploration documented the brig Industry shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 2,000m below the Gulf surface. The brig sank in the summer of 1836 after a storm snapped its masts and opened the hull to the sea.
The remains of the 64-foot long, two-masted wooden brig open a window into a little known chapter of American history when descendants of African slaves and Native Americans served as essential crew in one of the nation’s oldest industries.
Researchers believe that the ship was indeed manned by a crew that featured Black and Native American members, based on documents pertaining to Industry's voyages.
The 64-foot-long ship was hunting for sperm whales about 70 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River on 26 May 1836, when a squall struck, snapping both masts and tearing open the hull. The crew of 15, which included men from Massachusetts and probably some from Rhode Island, was rescued from the capsized ship by another Westport whaler and returned home safely.
The racial makeup of Industry’s crew would have constrained its options when it ran into trouble, because Black members would have been imprisoned and potentially sold into slavery if they had docked at a Southern port.
Most whalers avoided the Gulf of Mexico altogether; according to research by Judith Lund, a historian who worked for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, only 214 whaling voyages are known to have sailed in the Gulf from the 1780s through the 1870s.
Discovered in 2011
The ship’s remains were first documented in 2011, when a geological data company scanning an oil lease area spotted the carcass of a ship at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Following standard procedures, the company reported its finding to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which logged the wreck as No. 15563 and left it alone.
While the shipwreck is more than a mile below the surface, NOAA is not disclosing its exact location to make it harder for anyone to disturb the site. According to NOAA's Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA research, it is illegal to remove artifacts from the ship, and NOAA plans to leave the site untouched.