Racing the backhoe: Archeologists work to preserve revolutionary ship

In Alexandria, archeologists are racing the wrecking ball tonight.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA9) -- Archeologists are racing the wrecking ball. They are rushing to recover the remains of an ancient ship scuttled for landfill around the time of the American Revolution.

Residents grabbed a brief glimpse of the old vessel. The site surrounded by a fence now. But people were really fired up for a quick look. This is the first time anyone has found a shipwreck this old along the Alexandria waterfront.

People crowded in, standing on tiptoes, stealing glimpses of a more than 200-year-old ship in what was her final resting place.

"Thank goodness I'm tall enough to look over this fence too," said one man.

The sturdily built craft is a hundred yards from the current shoreline.

"Lee Street, two blocks up from here was the edge of the water," said Boyd Walker of the Alexandria Preservation Alliance. "There were mudflats here."

Some of Alexandria's earliest residents scuttled it to give the town better access to the deep channel of the Potomac.

"The founders of the city had incredible aspirations," said city archeologist Francine Bromberg.

Workers uncovered the 50-foot craft while digging the foundation for a new waterfront hotel. It was junk to the colonists, but it's a jewel Tuesday.

"It's a treasure to us," said Bromberg. "There is no way to even put into words how exciting it is to have this find on our waterfront."  

Archeologists are racing to document the site and pull the heavy timbers out for preservation. They suspect it may have been a cargo ship or maybe a military vessel.

"It's really cool," said nine-year-old Lucia Bigelow. "I'm really interested in archeology."

Almost as cool as the ship? An old privy they've also found in the pit. A three seater with even less privacy than a porta potty. But buried in the muck could be even more treasure.

"Because when you drop something in a privy, who is going to retrieve it?" asked a man in the crowd. "That's right," said the archeologist. "Fortunately not your cell phone." "The poop may be even more interesting than the boat?" "That's right."

Historians say there may be dozens of these scuttled ships under the buildings here on the waterfront. And as the redevelopment marches on, they may uncover even more of them.

Archeologists plan to preserve the timbers in propylene glycol. However to put them on display, they're going to need to raise some money.

Like this story? Like us on Facebook

 

 


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment