Civil War blockade runner excavated

The coast of North Carolina is one of those world-renowned ‘wreck traps.’ Off its coast lies hundreds of wrecks, including Blackbeard’s flagship and the Civil War ironclad Monitor. But according to this story, “the wreck of the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece, which sits just beyond the surf near Fort Fisher, is in many ways the most important of all.”

As the article explains:

The wreck, which was excavated 50 years ago, led to the creation of the state underwater archaeology unit that studies the other wrecks. It led to a state law to protect historic wreck sites from pilfering. It yielded such a large trove of artifacts that many have been used in experiments that advanced the tricky science of how to preserve historical treasures found underwater.

As the first of about 30 blockade runners sunk along the coast near Wilmington while trying to bring arms and vital commodities to the Confederate states, it has an iconic status in North Carolina and maritime history.

And last week — just in time for events marking the 150th anniversary of its sinking — thousands of artifacts from the Modern Greece were recovered from underwater.

For the second time.

A team of students began to pull the artifacts out of murky, half-century-old storage tanks, clean and catalog them and put them in indoor tanks where they could finally begin to receive modern preservation treatment.

“It was just the right time to do this,” said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, deputy state archaeologist and head of the Department of Cultural Resources’ Underwater Archaeology Branch. “The bottom line is it would be a bit irresponsible to just leave it there. We don’t even know what we have there.”

Coming up are a seminar, a public viewing and an expedition to the site.

The activity is aimed at bringing more attention to the local blockade runners, Wilde-Ramsing said. They represent the largest collection of wrecks in the world dating from an interesting period in naval architecture, and they have a central place in Civil War history.

For more images go here.

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Filed under Along the Coast, Announcement, Shipwreck culture, Wrecks in the News

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