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The Monterrey Shipwreck: A Mystery Ship 4,300 Feet Deep

Dark Descent  Copyright NOAA OER
Dark Descent
Copyright NOAA OER

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 Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann

As the ROVs descend into the dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico, their lights open our eyes to a foreign world thousands of feet below us: inner space as it were. Out of the darkness at a depth of almost 4,300 feet, a shadowy form emerges and yields an eerily intact shipwreck resting on the soft silt of the sea floor. Its haunting beauty hints at the secrets that it could reveal regarding its mysterious history.

We’ve journeyed 170 miles off the coast of Texas to explore this unique shipwreck.  We will spend five days conducting operations around the clock to map and document the wreck in exacting detail, to excavate target areas of artifacts, and bring them to the surface for in-depth study that will provide diagnostic information and allow us to discover the vessel’s age, function, nationality, and identity.

A major collaboration between the Texas State University Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the Texas Historical Commission, the University of Rhode Island, and the Ocean Exploration Trust will be working out of National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence Dr. Robert Ballard’s E/V Nautilus to uncover the mysteries of the Monterrey Shipwreck.

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. 

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