Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann and his team of archeologists have been excavating the Monterrey shipwreck with funding from National Geographic. The excavation is the deepest archaeological shipwreck excavation ever undertaken in North America. Hanselmann and his team completed the remainder of their research recently and set out to explore the surrounding area before they returned home. In doing so, they discovered two other major shipwrecks. The team knew from Shell Oil’s reports that there were other potential wrecks in the area, and they were not disappointed when they went exploring.
During the excavation of the Monterrey site, the team has been able to learn more about the ship itself, the activities of its crew, and maritime activity in the Gulf of Mexico back when it sailed. The team has discovered things such as intact bottles with organic substances in them, including an area that holds medicinal objects like a syringe, a wooden jacket and a book. Some of the objects are so fragile that the team has had to document them on site and leave them behind. The site has been well preserved, allowing the team to study its contents in detail and remove some of the artifacts for further study.
The team first collected their equipment from the Monterrey site and then moved to another area nearby. The first site contained a ship that seemed very similar to the Monterrey, carrying what appeared to be hides, tallow and bottles. The ship had decomposed severely, but a number of the frames remained visible, providing positive identification as a ship. Two of the ship’s masts were also clearly visible, Hanselmann wrote in a blog post for National Geographic.
The team’s excavation permit only extended to the Monterrey shipwreck, so the team was unable to explore the site further, though they did document the area through mapping and measuring. Then they moved on to the potential third target, where they found yet another shipwreck. It was the largest ship of the three with its hull covered in copper. The discovery of two additional ships raises more questions than it answers for the team. Hanselmann himself lists them: Were the ships traveling in a convoy? Was the Monterrey a privateer, with the other two ships being prizes?
The team is currently heading back to Galveston, where they will examine the artifacts and complete archival research to answer these questions. For the team, though, a lifelong dream of discovering a shipwreck and being the first to lay eyes on it has been accomplished.