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16 July 2010

An old ship & an old shoe from 2 centuries ago found in underground mud at site of World Trade Center in New York City

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Photos: The Associated Press.

The Associated Press (USA newswire)
Friday 16 July 2010


Ship junked 200 years ago
uncovered at WTC site


by Verena Dobnik (AP)


NEW YORK —- The ship was buried as junk two centuries ago — landfill to expand a bustling little island of commerce called Manhattan. When it re-emerged this week, surrounded by skyscrapers, it was an instant treasure that popped up from the mud near ground zero.

A 32-foot piece of the vessel was found in soil 20 feet under street level, amid noisy bulldozers excavating a parking garage for the future World Trade Center. Near the site of so many grim finds — Sept. 11 victims' remains, twisted steel — this discovery was as unexpected as it was thrilling.

Historians say the ship, believed to date to the 1700s, was defunct by the time it was used around 1810 to extend the shores of lower Manhattan.

"A ship is the summit of what you might find under the World Trade Center — it's exciting!" said Molly McDonald, an archaeologist who first spotted two pieces of hewn, curved timber — part of the frame of the ship — peeking out of the muddy soil at dawn on Tuesday.

By Thursday, she and three colleagues had dug up the hull from the pit where a section of the new trade center is being built.

A steep, hanging ladder trembled with each step down into chaotic mounds of dirt, dwarfed all around by Manhattan skyscrapers rising into the July sun. People sank in the mud as they walked and grasped pieces of the historic wood for support — touching the centuries-old ship that may once have sailed the Caribbean, according to marine historian Norman Brower, who examined it Thursday.

"It smells like low tide, this muck," said McDonald as she stood on the weathered planks, sniffing the dank odor that hovered over them in the hot summer morning.

The ship harbors many mysteries still to be solved: "Where was it built? How was it used? Why was it sunk?"

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo made the discovery on Tuesday at about 6:15 a.m., just as they started their shift observing construction in the pit at the southern edge of ground zero. The two work for AKRF, a New York environmental consulting firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the trade center site.

"We noticed two curved timbers that a backhoe had dislocated," McDonald said. Joined by two more archaeologists, they started digging with shovels, "and we quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days."

Brower, the historian, works in Mystic, Conn. -— renowned for its historic vessels. He told the archaeologists that it was an oceangoing vessel that might have sailed the Caribbean, as evidenced by 18th-century marine organisms that had bored tiny tunnels in the timber.

The vessel's age will be estimated after the two pieces that first popped up are tested in a laboratory through dendrochronology — the science of using tree rings to determine dates and chronological order. Also unknown is what kind of wood was used to build the ship.

A 100-pound iron anchor was found a few yards from the hull, possibly from the old vessel.

There were also traces of human life nearby =— "pieces of shoes all over," said McDonald, who had no idea how they got there.

The ship likely got there because of the effort to extend lower Manhattan into the Hudson River in the 1700s and 1800s using landfill. Cribbing usually consisted of logs joined together — much like a log cabin — but a derelict ship was occasionally used.

The ship discovered Tuesday was weighted down and sunk to the bottom of the river, as support for new city piers in a part of Manhattan tied to global commerce and trade.

A similar find emerged a walk away in 1982, when archaeologists found an 18th-century cargo ship on Water Street.

The remains of the latest discovery will be removed in the coming days, but the timber is so delicate it's unclear how much of it will remain intact. The surrounding water acted as a preservant for the wood for centuries, McDonald said, but the remains began to deteriorate immediately upon contact with oxygen.

"We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," McDonald said, meaning shovels are used. Construction equipment could come in handy later in the process.

On Thursday, archaeologists were quickly sketching, measuring and photographing the ship remnants to help them analyze the find later; the two pieces of timber that signaled the discovery were taken away immediately. It was not clear from the 32-foot piece how long the whole ship might have been.

Another fascinating detail might emerge as work progresses: coins traditionally placed under a vessel's keel block as a symbol of good fortune and safe travels.

But the team is already feeling pretty lucky. "I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo said.

Somehow, the workers operating the bulldozers missed the bulk of the ship, catching only the two timbers as they excavated ramps that will connect to an underground parking garage at the rebuilt trade center.

Within the fenced-off, 16-acre site in downtown Manhattan, steel for a planned 1,776-foot skyscraper has risen 24 stories. The memorial to victims of the Septenmber 11 attacks, a multibillion-dollar transit hub and a second office tower are under construction. More office towers and a performing arts center are also part of the original plan.

- 30 -

25 comments:

Ryszard Wasilewski said...

Didn't actually read any of your posts (accidental visitor, you see), just glanced here and there, thought: hm. Well, perhaps take another look some time when I'm in a better mood.
Just thought I'd let you know.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Welcome to Planet Vleeptron, Accidental Visitor!

How'd you stumble into this loopy blog? Whaddya find, whaddya like?

You've been wandering around Los Alamos ... did you go to Jornada del Muerto and the Trinity test site? It's a favorite of my Geiger Counter Enthusiasts list chums ... pretty much all cooled down now, but there's still glass -- green, I think -- fused from the sand.

But if you've brought plenty of water with you, I imagine the Jornado is one of the most gorgeously austere landscapes in the Southwest.

As a boy, Oppenheimer spent time recuperating from TB at a boys camp, which he recommended as the remote site that became Los Alamos.

I did a summer when I was about 14 near Taos, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and I've come back to the wildlands of NM and Arizona whenever I've had the chance. Motorycycling through the summits of the Geronimo (I think) National Forest, I had a stare contest with the screwiest critter I'd ever seen. Down below I described it as a stretched-out raccoon to a park ranger, and he told me I'd seen a coatimundi ... they've been expanding their range into the Southwest from Central America. Seen one yet?

Is this you (by you)? Age seems about right ...

http://www.gazeta.razem.pl/multimedia/wasilewski.jpg

What animations did you do?

Anyway, I'm the Drunken Driver of Art, hopelessly untalented, but because the government doesn't require that artists be licensed or certified, I do it anyway. In particular I'm an adoring slave of the Faux Postage artist Donald Evans ... I make faux postage stamps, they're all over VleeptronZ. (Nothing as dreamy as Evans' stuff.)

Here's a recent favorite:

http://vleeptronz.blogspot.com/2009/06/1st-day-issue-tierra-de-los-suenos-new.html

Surfing your very interesting blogs ... thanks for visiting Vleeptron!

Youngster Bob (b. 1947)

Ryszard Wasilewski said...

How did I stumble to your blog?
The consequences of stumbling can often be such that I stumble without enough control over the direction that I am stumbling in. I have a blog called Next Blog, but in an evening occurrence, after my first swig of beer, I clicked on Next Blog on the bar (above) instead of Next Blog in my link list. Could happen any time to any one who has a blog called Next Blog.
Los Alamos? Its our nearest town. Jornada del Muerto (for those no longer making that trip) between here and there enough already without visiting where the sand turned to glass (green? is that how they make beer bottles?).
Animation? Shameful past. Did features, childrens' TV series, TV ads and such crap. Then fancy new software nudged all us traditional old codgers aside -- besides, I was sick of that "industry" game, so I left learning new programs every few moments to the savvy young and returned to painting where I belong.
I read some more of your posts -- I like what you are are putting out and will visit your site regularly.
BTW the portrait you submitted as a possible me is not me at all. I'm not as cute, my hair is not anywhere near as tidy as that Wasilewski's -- I've been left out in the high altitude sun for too long to be seen in public in that form.

Vleeptron Dude said...

[transferred from e-mail]
=========================

Such a great story!

Bob, did you read about the hoard of Saxon treasure in the English Midlands?

The woman in charge of the local museum wept when she saw it.

We have Viking treasure but not much from the Saxon period. They say
the Staffordshire hoard is more important than the ship at Sutton Hoo,
discovered in 1939.

And, more recently, thousands of Roman coins...

--

(Had trouble using my google name on the blog. Do transfer)
Words are the only things that last for ever.
Winston Churchill
If words fall into disrepair, what will substitute? They are all we have.
Tony Judt
Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in
the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
Tom Stoppard

Christopher Lawson, Writer/Editor,
CL Communications Consulting SRL,
Strada Toma Cozma nr. 9, bloc 8, scara C, apartament 1 parter,
RO-700554 IASI, Romania
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Editorial and copywriting services

patfromch said...

Dunno if I should interfere here but you can see and hear about the Staffordshire hoard here, together with lots of other interesting objects
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/
this is A History Of The World in 100 Objects from the Brithish Museum by BBC Radio
You can also subscribe to this show via podcast on itunes. According to the website they are currently taking a break, but they will cover the Beyeux carpet soon

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hiya Christopher! Buna!

Oh yeah I've seen TV documentary about the Saxon treasure! I have nothing more profound to say than: Wow.

This week I'm crippling and wheezing along on a laptop, my beloved Supercomputer is in the Intensive Care Unit, and requires Backup & Prayer.

Good to hear from you! This will be the first of my Global Apologies for not responding to invites from Linkdin Facebook etc. ... the Old Man is steering clear of the social networking sites. (See a few posts ago: Annals of Musical Beauty.)

I went to uni in NYC about the time the WTC was being built. I think Prince Charles and I share much the same sentiments about architecture and preservation.

The hint that the unearthed ship may have sailed the Caribbean might make one of its favorite ports of call in the late 1700s an island I've loitered on several times, Sint Eustatius = Statia ... at the time the Shopping Mall of the Caribbean, and the busiest port in the world.

Statia was the first soverignty to fire a cannon salute to the brand-new U.S. Flag flying atop a Rebel vessel -- they were shopping for gunpowder and weapons, and there's a bit of controversy as to whether the Fort Commander really meant the salute, he may have confused our unknown flag with another nation's flag, he may have been some mix of nearsighted and incompetent (though Dutch).

This pissed off the British government, at the time making very partial and Phyrric success with the War in the American Colonies. They dispatched Admiral Rodney & Fleet, which and who completely destroyed Statia's scores of warehouses and dozens of stone and concrete wharves. All the men (including adolescent boys) involved in Statia's commerce were led off in chains and transported to other islands. To this day, among Statia's largely African-Caribbean community, the name "Rodney" is pronounced with the sneer and grimace in our day reserved for "Hitler." Black Statians were slaves at the time; Rodney did not emancipate them.

Anyway thanks multumesc for inspiring my next post, whenever the hell that will be.





Statia never recovered its commercial

Vleeptron Dude said...

AAAARGH! my previous Comment was not flawlessly proofread & edited -- such has befallen Agence-Vleeptron Presse since our supercallifragialisticexpialidocious Dell Optiplex has suffered some sort of Belch and so far none of the surgeons is willing to promise anything much beyond Backup If Possible and/or Death. If Optiplex (its official name is PowerCow) ever hums against my left leg again, it will be a miracle akin to Lourdes and Fatima (but they were free, I'll pay thru the nose for this resurrection).

This is the journalistic quality you get from the steel-jacketed Sony laptop, even wearing reading glasses.

Today Statia is among a small handful of Caribbean islands blessed with a virtue beyond all others: its harbors and docks are too small to accomodate monster cruise ships which disgorge a gazillion tourists each morning -- if 2 ships, 2 gazillion, etc. -- and whistle them back 7 hours later for supper. The typical daily tourist disgorge is max 24, the number of seats in the DeHavilland Twin Otter STOL plane's daily arrival (but islanders occupy some of those seats).

From Sint Maarten's bigger airport, the flight to Statia features a genuine authentic World Class Thrill -- a touchdown, brief stopover, and takeoff from the Guiness Book World Shortest (officially recognized) Airstrip. If the Otter pilots (2, passnegers can literally watch them) can't stop before the airstrip end, all aboard plummet over a cliff 1/8 mile to the ocean rocks and certain death.

Takeoff is equally thrilling: The pilots taxi to the very last centimeter, rev both engines to the max, pop the brakes, and fly over the edge of the cliff at the far end. Then there's a brief but very noticeable Planned Plummet, but the Otter always manages to catch enough air to rise into the sky before it hits the water.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Believe it or not, the little airline doesn't charge Statia passengers one penny extra for the Touchdown & Takeoff from Saba, a tiny dormant volcano island noted for world-class SCUBA stuff. Many passnegers pray during these maneuvers, once all the passengers applauded the pilots enthusastically for a successful Touchdown & Stop, and a pilot turned around and smiled to acknowledge the cheering.

Lazarus Lupin said...

you are proof that art happens.
Keep happening.

Lazarus Lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
art and review

Vleeptron Dude said...

Okay okay sorry for a little tardiness Lazarus Lupin ... I've been loitering around
beastie
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/

and leaving graffiti -- specifically the poem "The Chambered Nautilus" to go with an image that looks spirally like a chambered nautilus. Oh, here it is again

http://vleeptronz.blogspot.com/2009/06/build-thee-more-stately-mansions-o-my.html

with nifty images and (don't wretch) equations which describe the way the beastie grows larger and, filling the abandoned chamber with air, moves to the larger new chamber and stays bouyant.

I like strangespanner!

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