The wreck of a 207-year-old whaling ship that was run by descendants of slaves has been discovered at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Footage and images showing the long-lost ship have been released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with 19th-century documents related to the whaling vessel.
The wreckage from the crash was discovered in February during a search operation to test some remote operating vehicles and mapping systems ahead of projects due later this year.
With the wreck of the ship now fully unearthed and its history uncovered, experts say this particular boat sheds light on a little-known chapter in black history, where slave descendants and Native Americans were found in whaling. Used as a crew in industry.
“This is an important discovery in American history,” US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said in a statement.
“This 19th-century whaling ship will help us learn more about the lives of Black and Native American sailors and their communities, and the enormous challenges they faced at sea and on land.”
Whaling was a big business in America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Whales were hunted for meat, blubber, and the oil in their bodies, which was used to make lamp oil and soap, among other things.
Many species of whales were hunted on such a large scale that they reached the verge of extinction.
After seeing the wreck, NOAA teamed up with archaeologists and cultural resource management firm Search Inc. to learn more about the wreck.
They were able to confirm that the boat was “industry,” a 64-foot ship built in Massachusetts in 1815. It was used to hunt whales in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, where it was lost in a hurricane. in 1836.
James Delgado, Senior Vice President of Search Inc. newsweek Whaling was a dangerous industry: “far more for whalers in small boats facing whales,” he said.
“Whalers were lost, however, usually to storms, roaming in or out of ports—particularly on Pacific reefs—being crushed by ice, or catching fire at sea.
“I’ve worked on several whaling ships, including another NOAA project, where we looked at the site where dozens of whalers were caught and trapped in the Arctic ice and then crushed in 1871.”
While the researchers do not have a list of the crew for the voyage where it sank, the crew members and officers in the previous lists included black people, Native Americans, multiracial and white people.
Fortunately, the industry crew was picked up at sea by another whaling ship and returned to Westport, Massachusetts.
“It was very fortunate for the people aboard the ship,” Delgado said in a statement. “If the black crew tried to move ashore, they would be imprisoned under local laws. And if they could not pay to stay in prison, they would be sold into slavery.”
Delgado told newsweek that by the 1830s, whaling was having a huge impact on the American economy and on the number of whales, the population was rapidly declining.
“For those who worked in whaling, it was a difficult life, with extended periods of absence with some voyages lasting more than a year,” he said.
“The industry cleared Westport for a fourteen-month absence on its final voyage. It was hard work too, with inherent dangers. And if you didn’t get enough whales, and a little oil came back with you, your bases On the crew role, your percentage of profits was very small.
“All of the crew’s salary came from selling oil and any other ‘products’, as some whalers brought back baleen and whale bone to sell. Sperm whale oil was the most expensive ‘premium’ grade and therefore whalers were killed and killed. Were eager to submit those whales are in advantage.”
SEARCH Inc., along with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, now hopes to nominate the wreck site for the National Register of Historic Places.
NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement: “Today, we celebrate the discovery of a lost ship that will help us better understand this rich story of how people of color play captains and drivers in the American whaling industry. Succeeded as crew members in the early 1800s.
“The discovery demonstrates how African Americans and Native Americans prospered in the maritime economy despite facing discrimination and other injustices.”