The Monterrey Shipwreck: Artifacts Discovered

Book uncovered on the Monterrey Shipwreck
Book uncovered on the Monterrey Shipwreck

National Geographic Grantee and Texas State University Research Faculty Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann and a team of leading archaeologists are conducting an expedition to the Monterrey Shipwreck in order to carry out the deepest archaeological shipwreck excavation ever in North America. Follow along with Fritz’s updates from the field.

 By Fritz Hanselmann

Once we have a sample of the artifacts in hand, we send the elevator back down for another lift with the ROV Hercules continuing to work 4,300 feet below us.  Through careful study and analysis of the artifacts excavated, not only do we learn more about the ship itself, but we are able to understand more about the crew, their activities and the bigger picture of maritime activity in the Gulf of Mexico region.  For example, two of the artifacts that we recovered were intact bottles possibly filled with ginger, which would have been used to treat seasickness at the time, just one example of the the interconnection between the objects and the human nature of those who used them so long ago.  I can imagine sailing these waters in a much smaller vessel then we are now and having the need to ingest the ginger to quell the nausea and wooziness that accompany seasickness.  In addition to the bottles with organic contents, we recovered an octant, liquor bottles, a ceramic jar called a “cantaro” used in the Yucatan, possible Spanish majolica, a decanter, a demijohn, and other miscellaneous ceramics and bottles, and we are also developing a strategy to recover some of the muskets and swords.  We continued to document the wreck and found an area that holds medicinal objects, including a syringe.  Amazingly, we also found a woolen jacket near the starboard side of the stern and a book that had been buried in the sediment near the ship’s pump.  In some cases, the fragility of the artifacts dictate that they be preserved in situ, or on site.  As much as we would like to see the book and attempt its recovery, we reluctantly back Hercules away from it and zoom the camera in to gaze on it in wonder for a few more moments.  This site has such an amazing rate of preservation that these artifacts are in astoundingly wonderful condition and they truly provide a physical connection with our shared past.

Funding provided by foundations and individual donors through the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and the Office of Advancement at Texas State University, the Way Family Foundation, and the Harte Family Foundation. 

NEXT: More Artifacts Recovered



  1. Joe Bauman
    Salt Lake City
    April 7, 2014, 1:14 pm

    You’d be stupid not to recover the book. Surely it could be done carefully and we would all learn something. If you don’t try, it will deteriorate eventually and we will not have learned anything about it.