Tag Archives: ship

Archaeologists find oldest intact shipwreck — 2,400 years, in the Black Sea

This old sunken merchant ship lies just off the coast of Bulgaria and is still in remarkable shape.

Image credits: Black Sea Map.

Around the year 400BC, some traders in Greek had a horrible day. For reasons that remain unknown, their ship sank. Well, archaeologists only suspect that it was a Greek merchant ship, but it’s clear that it did sank — and was amazingly well-preserved, one mile beneath the surface, its mast, rudders, and rowing benches still intact and in place.

“A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Professor Jon Adams, the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime ArchaeologyProject (MAP), the team that made the find. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

The 23-meter (75 feet) boat was discovered by a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) operated by the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), which has discovered more than 60 historic shipwrecks during a three-year survey of the Black Sea, according to The Guardian.

The findings varied from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period” — the latter of which is presented here.

Aside from its excellently-kept wooden structure, the ROV also discovered typical Greek pottery, and retrieved a piece of the wreck and brought it to the surface for dating (it was dated to 2,400 years ago). The results will be presented at the Black Sea MAP conference at the Wellcome Collection in London later this week.

The pottery vase depicts a legendary scene: the hero Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, as he sailed past three mythical mermaids whose irresistible tune was thought to drive sailors to their deaths. Odysseus wanted to hear the tune, while still being immune to their trickery.

While older ships have been found on land, it’s highly uncommon for submerged ships to escape decay. However, it’s no coincidence that the ship was so well-preserved — in fact, it’s got everything to do with the unusual physical and chemical environment of the Black Sea.

The Black Sea is what’s called a meromictic basin — it has layers that don’t intermix. Simply put, the deep waters do not mix with the upper layers of water that receive oxygen from the atmosphere. As a result, over 90% of the deeper Black Sea volume is anoxic — it almost completely lacks oxygen. It’s this anoxic layer that helped preserve the ship — and many others. These unique conditions have helped many ships sunken in the Black Sea remain in excellent shape. However, MAP says they need additional funding in order to return to the area.

They are interested not only in finding sunken ships but also in using the information to study technology and trade in the area, as well as sea movement and circulation.

The Wreck.

Novel nanocomposite material might prevent shipwrecks from rotting

Shipwrecks are coming — soon, to a museum near you. And it’s all thanks to nanotechnology.

The Wreck.

“The Wreck”, Knud-Andreassen Baade.
Image via Wikimedia.

A novel approach hopes to turn the damp, pitted wood of ancient shipwrecks into a showstopper. The team is currently using ‘smart’ nanocomposites to conserve the 16th-century British warship, the Mary Rose, and its artifacts. Should the process prove effective, museums will be able to display salvaged wrecks in all their glory without them rotting away.

The old that is strong does not wither

Thousands of shipwrecks have come to rest on ocean floors through the centuries. These drowned leviathans spark the passion of both researchers — who can learn a lot about past battles and ways of life from the wrecks — and public alike.

However, it’s very risky to go in and try to recover shipwrecks. Metal ships tend to weather the years underwater with some grace, but the wooden ones quickly rot away — after roughly a century, the only parts that remain are those that were buried in silt or sand soon after the sinking. Even worse, these timber skeletons quickly deteriorate once brought up to the surface.

While underwater, sulfur-reducing bacteria from the sea floor move into the wood and secrete hydrogen sulfide. This reacts with iron ions (rust) from items like nails or cannonballs, forming iron sulfide. This compound remains stable in environments that sport low levels of oxygen but binds with the gas to form acids that attack the wood.

In a paper being presented today at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), one team of researchers detail their efforts to keep wooden shipwrecks intact after recovery.

“This project began over a glass of wine with Eleanor Schofield, Ph.D., who is head of conservation at the Mary Rose Trust,” recalls Serena Corr, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator.

“She was working on techniques to preserve the wood hull [of the Mary Rose] and assorted artifacts and needed a way to direct the treatment into the wood. We had been working with functional magnetic nanomaterials for applications in imaging, and we thought we might be able to apply this technology to the Mary Rose.”

Mary Rose.

Mary Rose in its specially-designed building at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.
Image via Wikimedia.

The Mary Rose was one of the first sailing ships built for war. Work on the wooden carrack (three-masted ship) began in 1510, and she was set to sea in July 1511. She remained one of the largest ships in the English navy for over three decades, during which she fought against the French, Scottish, and Brythonic navies — a task at which the Mary Rose excelled. The ship bristled with heavy cannons that popped out from gun-ports (which were cutting-edge technology at the time), and one of the first ships in the world capable of firing a full broadside.

Still, for reasons not yet clear, the ship sank in 1545 off the south coast of England. It was re-discovered in 1971 and recovered in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust, along with over 19,000 artifacts and pieces of timber. The wreck helped provide a unique snapshot of seafaring and daily life in the Tudor period. It was displayed in a museum in Portsmouth, England, alongside the recovered artifacts.

Only 40% of the initial wooden structure survived the centuries underwater, and even this was rapidly degrading on the surface. So the Trust set out to preserve their invaluable wreck.

Corr’s goal was to avoid acid production by removing free iron ions from the wreck. She and her team at the University of Glasgow started by spraying the wood with cold water to keep it from drying out, which prevented further microbial activity, they explain. Afterward, they applied different types of polyethylene glycol (PEG) — a common polymer —  to the wreck. The PEG replaced water in the wood’s cells, forming a more robust outer layer.

The team, alongside researchers from the University of Warwick, are also working on a new family of magnetic nanoparticles to help in the conservation effort. They analyzed the sulfur species in the wood before the PEG treatment was applied, and then periodically as the ship dried.

This process will help the team design new targeted treatments to scrub sulfur compounds from the wood of the Mary Rose.

The next step, Schofield says, will be to use a nanocomposite material — based on magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles coated in active chemical agents — to remove these sulfur and iron ions. The nanoparticles will be applied directly to the wood and later guided through its pores to any particular areas using external magnetic fields. Such an approach should allow the team to completely remove the ions from the wood, they say.

“Conservators will have, for the first time, a state-of-the-art quantitative and restorative method for the safe and rapid treatment of wooden artifacts,” Corr says. “We plan to then transfer this technology to other materials recovered from the Mary Rose, such as textiles and leather.”

The paper “Magnetic nanocomposite materials for the archeological waterlogged wood conservation” has been presented today, Tuesday 21th August, at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Paper reconstruction.

Paper strips recovered from Blackbeard’s ship reveals pirates liked voyage stories — at least, stuffed in their guns

The infamous pirate Blackbeard may have passed the hours between raids with some light reading, a new discovery suggests.

Paper reconstruction.

Image credits North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

North Carolina archeological conservators working on the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), the ship captained by Blackbeard during the 18th-century, have found 16 paper fragments “in a mess of wet sludge” hidden in the chamber of a cannon. In the end, they managed to identify the original works from these slivers of paper — a 1712 book penned by Captain Edward Cooke, A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711.

Y’aaaarrr me maties, ’tis a fine book!

It took months of efforts to ensure the fragments are properly conserved, and months still after that step for the team to identify the book from the few words still (barely) visible on the fragments — the largest of which was about the size of a US quarter.

The conservators, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’s QAR lab, said that paper is a very rare find on shipwreck sites.

“This unique find from the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge provides archaeological evidence for books carried on ships in the early 18th century, and adds to our knowledge of the history of Blackbeard’s flagship and those who sailed her,” the department wrote in a statement.

“The historical record has several references to books aboard vessels in Blackbeard’s fleet, but provides no specific titles; this find is the first archaeological evidence for their presence on QAR.”

Edward Teach, who took up the name Blackbeard for his pirate adventures, ran the QAR aground off the coast of North Carolina in 1718. The wreck was discovered in 1996, and ever since conservators had been hard at work digging out and preserving the artifacts aboard.

Blackbeard pirate flag.

The pirate flag Blackbeard sailed under.
Image credits Angus Konstam, Blackbeard the Pirate, via Wikimedia.

The book describes Cooke’s voyages and adventures around the coast of South America, so it would probably have been quite a good lecture for a pirate — both educational and entertaining! The book was also quite influential during its time. Among other tales, it recounts the story of Alexander Selkirk’s rescue from an island in the South Pacific on which he had been marooned for four years. The story would eventually inspire Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe in 1719.

Paper, like most organic material, very rarely survives in shipwrecks — so finding the pieces is a special occurrence indeed. One of the pirates‘ less honorable practices, that of stuffing cannons with paper (among other things) to keep the powder charge in place, might have helped preserve it.

Kind of wasteful if you ask me, but then again, I’ve never had to load a gun.

“Although books such as these voyage narratives would have been relatively common on ships of the early 18th century, archaeological evidence for them is exceedingly rare, and this find represents a glimpse into the reading habits of a pirate crew,” the conservators add.

The team is also planning a display of the find to mark Blackbeard’s 300th anniversary this year.

Electric freight ship.

First all-electric cargo ship built in China will start its career drenched in irony

China can boast using the world’s first all-electric cargo ship — but its cargo leaves a sour taste: it’s coal.

Electric freight ship.

Two technicians pass by the world’s first 2,000-metric-ton, all-electric cargo ship during its debut in Guangzhou.
Image credits Xia Shiyan / China Daily.

State-owned news outlet China Daily reports that the 2,000 metric-ton ship was launched to water last month in the city of Guangzhou. It was built by the Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Ltd. to shuttle goods along the inland section of the Pearl River.


It’s not the fastest electric ship out there (that’s a yacht), neither is it the smartest (that would be a planned autonomous freighter), but it definitely has a lot of oomph. The ship measures 70.5 meters (230 feet) in length and is ‘armed’ with a 2,400 kWh battery pack, allowing it to carry 2200 tons of cargo over 80 kilometers (50 miles) at a max speed of 12.8 kilometers (8 miles) per hour. After every full trip, the ship has to be charged for two hours. Conveniently, however, two hours is about how much time it would take to unload the ship while docked.

Overall, a very solid example of electric vehicles hitting the water, and for heavy-duty work to boot.

“As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment,” said Huang Jialin, general manager of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, the company that designed the ship.

As the ship’s engines and batteries stand testament to our shifting relationship with fossil fuels, however, its cargo shows how far we still are from a complete shift: this fully-electric cargo ship, the first in the world, is earmarked for coal transport. According to Chen Ji, general manager of Guangzhou Shipyard International, the cargo vessel would help greatly reduce shipping costs for electric power operators.


“The cost of electric power is less than that (of) traditional fuel. The main cost of the new energy cargo ship depends on how much lithium battery it is equipped with,” Chen said for China Daily.

“Theoretically, the fully electric-powered ship could have more capacity in cargo loading. If it is equipped with larger energy batteries, it will carry goods of more than 2,000 tons,” Chen said.

The craft itself may be generating zero emissions on its own, granted, but when looking at the big picture it will be directly involved in amplifying climate change.

I suppose the only thing worse than an electric coal-ferry is a residual oil or coal-burning coal-ferry, however, so one could still call this a win. Cargo ships are some of the largest contributors to the transport sector’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, so swapping them for electric ones will be a net improvement. At the same time, since electricity is cheaper than other types of fuel, it would also help bring down the prices of every good that has to be shipped around. Furthermore, the same technology can also be used in other large craft such as ferries, container ships, or vessels used for short hauls.

I find the idea of using e-vehicles to make coal cheaper, however, to be hilariously ironic. Sure, it makes economic sense, but it misses the whole point of clean energy by a country mile. At the end of the day though, if you are carrying coal anyway, there’s no harm in chipping down some of the emissions.

But ships aren’t built in stone. A coal-hauler today could very well be a battery carrier tomorrow. Not an unlikely prospect, considering China’s monumental push towards solar energy in particular and renewables in general. In the end, no matter how sooty the present may be, we’re actively building the means to create a clean future.

Diver Shipwreck.

Divers solve 93-year-old mystery by discovering shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Huron

The USS Clifton, the “only whaleback ship[wreck] left in Lake Huron,” has been found. The vessel sunk in 1924, claiming the lives of 25 crewmen.

Diver Shipwreck.

Stock image via Pixabay.

The cargo steamship USS Clifton went out on Lake Huron in late September 1924, ferrying 2,200 tons of crushed stone from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to Detroit. On Sept. 21, the ship was hit by a gale, and sunk to the bottom of the lake, claiming the lives of 25 crew. Some bits of flotsam were later recovered, but the exact place where the Clifton came to rest at the bottom of Lake Huron remained a mystery for over 90 years.

Lost & Found

That all changed in September of 2016, when scuba diver David Trotter — who’s reportedly located more than 90 Great Lakes shipwrecks — discovered the USS Clifton‘s wreck. The discovery was the culmination of a 30-year-long search, and Trotter waited to publicly share the news until his company, Undersea Research Associates, could investigate the vessel and confirm its identity.

Although he spent decades searching for the USS Clifton, Trotter says it all came down to chance. In June 2016, he was leading a team of divers surveying two wrecks, the schooners Venus and Minnedosa , which went under in 1887 and 1905, respectively. On that dive, they had their first glimpse of the Clifton. The divers recorded its coordinates but had to wait several months for a chance to actually investigate what it was they’ve found.

On-site footage confirmed that the ship they spotted was a whaleback steamer, a type of cargo ship used in the 19th century which had low, rounded hulls, decks, and deckhouses, meant to reduce the ship’s water and wind resistance.

“The Clifton was the only whaleback ship left in Lake Huron that hadn’t already been found,” Trotter said, according to WZZM-TV. “There was no question we had found the Clifton.”

The USS Clifton rests on its side, roughly 100 miles south of where it was initially believed to have sunk. The ship’s bow is completely shattered, likely from an impact with the lake’s bottom, but the stern, inside paneling, and architecture remain well-preserved. Divers also spotted an unopened suitcase, and signage inside the ship.

There isn’t a definitive answer to why it sunk, but Trotter’s team reports “that the self-unloading mechanism was still in position […] an interesting discovery because we now realize that the unloading mechanism didn’t break free, causing the Clifton to have instability, resulting in her sinking.”

Next, the divers hope to explore the ship’s engine room and crew cabins, as well as retrieve the suitcase to examine its contents.

Yara Birkeland.

Norway plans to launch the world’s first autonomous, fully electric ship next year

The world’s first fully autonomous, fully electric commercial cargo ship will be hitting Norway’s coastal waters as early as next year.

Yara Birkeland.

A rendering of the ship’s design.
Image credits YARA.

Once you start working on autonomous cars, there’s only a step (more likely a swim) to go to autonomous ships. In broad lines the tech is similar, the role is similar, it’s just that the surface they travel on is only a tad similar.

So it may not come as a huge surprise that people are working on designing ships that can navigate themselves — but just how close we are to a fully working such vessel likely will. Norway is expecting its first fully autonomous, fully electric commercial cargo ship to hit the waters next year.

Boaty McRobotface

Building and development costs on the to-be-christened Yara Birkeland is estimated to cost some US$25 million overall. The work will be carried out under a joint program by Yara International ASA, a Norwegian agriculture firm, and the Kongsberg Gruppen, who specialize in high-end technology.

It’s not only a test bed for maritime innovation — Yara Birkeland will be ferrying agricultural fertilizers across 37 nautical miles (68.5 km/42.5 miles) of coast to the port of Larvik from a local fertilizer plant. A suite of GPS, AIS, infrared cameras, radar, and lidar will be aiding the ship it on this quest, and ensure it stays on course within 12 nautical miles of the coast without colliding with anything.

Seems like a lot of cash to shell out for a fertilizer cargo boat, right? Well, the company expects to save a lot of money with the Yara Birkeland. Without a human crew on board to feed and pay for, and with fuel costs out of the picture, the ship is estimated to eventually slash operating costs by up to 90%.

And if there’s no crew, you don’t need crew quarters, right? Or kitchens. Toilets won’t see much use either, so those can be scrapped. The final stroke is to go with electric engines. They’re both cheaper to run and smaller than their combustion counterparts, which are pretty large, maintenance heavy and need fuel tanks. The ship will be fully electric, powered by a 4MWh battery pack. All that free space means you can make the ship smaller and lighter without cutting down on its transport capacity. The ship’s design is very neat and compact (by ship standards) judging from this video:

Yara Birkland will also help make Norway that tad greener and less congested, by replacing the 40,000 truck trips currently made annually to transport fertilizer on this route.

Helper oars

Yara Birkland’s first few days afloat, which are “planned to start in the latter half of 2018” will require some human supervision. During this testing and teething period, a single shipping container will be installed on-deck to act as a bridge. A small crew will monitor the ship from here, to ensure that all systems work as they should and to be on-hand in case they don’t. If this early stage is successful, the bridge will be moved off-shore for remote monitoring in 2019, and the ship will be fully autonomous by 2020.

At 34 nautical miles, the ship’s mission doesn’t seem all that impressive, but what matters here is for the vessel to prove it works. If successful it can easily be repurposed to longer routes, “maybe even move our fertilizer from Holland all the way to Brazil,” said Yara’s project leader Petter Ostbo for the Wall Street Journal. The technology bound to be taken up by shipbuilders if it proves its worth, so we’ll likely see a lot more autonomous ships in the future.

“Once the regulation is in place, I can see this spreading fast, there is a lot of interest from operators of coastal tankers, fish-transport vessels and supply ships that are knocking on our door,” said Kongsberg’s CEO Geir Haoy.

Russian-launched Progress resupply module crashes on-route to the ISS

The Russian unmanned spacecraft, on its way to re-supply the ISS, has crashed and burned in a remote southern part of the Russian wilderness.

Soyuz TMA-08M .

Bear necessities

Thursday morning, the Russian space agency Roscosmos successfully launched a Progress module packed with some 2,450 kg (5,383 lbs) of water, food, medicinal supplies and equipment, as well as toiletries and other simple bare necessities towards the ISS. The expendable module was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, carried by a Soyuz rocket. It was supposed to be a 9-minute flight, but shortly after the 6:30-minute mark ground control lost communications with the Progress module.

“After the launch of the Soyuz-U launch vehicle along with the Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft, telemetry connection was lost on the 383th second of flight,” reads a Roscosmos tweet, according to a translation by RT.com (Russian state-controlled news agency).

The Progress was supposed to separate from the third and last stage of the Soyuz at the end of the flight. But losing comms a full 2 minutes before the separation point isn’t a good sign. If the module detached too early, it wouldn’t have enough speed to reach orbit; if it detaches too late, it’s too heavy to reach orbit — so either way, the craft arches back towards Earth, burns up in the atmosphere, crashes down, or both.

NASA quickly informed the Expedition 50 ISS crew aboard the space station about the incident.

“Unfortunately I have some not-so-great news for you guys,” a mission controller told astronauts.

“Basically, what we saw was indications of the third-stage [separation] occurring a few minutes early and we haven’t had any communications with the Progress at all.”

Roscomos has later confirmed the loss of the Progress MS-04 about 118 miles above Tuva, a “rugged uninhabited mountainous territory,” the agency wrote in a release. It also disclosed that most fragments “were burned in the dense layers of the atmosphere”, suggesting that at least part of the craft crashed down. The agency also said that the crash won’t affect the going-ons on board the ISS. NASA has confirmed that the astronauts are well stocked with everything they need, and wants to remind the public that JAXA is preparing the launch of its HTV-6 cargo ship bound for the ISS on December 9, so fresh supplies are incoming.

Russia has formed a state commission to investigate the incident.

Navy’s futuristic destroyer will sail with reflectors because it’s too stealthy

This huge destroyer is apparently too stealthy for its own good – at least at peace. The U.S. Navy’s new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 1000) is so hard to detect that its crew plans to sail with giant reflectors just to make sure other ships can see it.

The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is the lead ship of the Zumwalt class, designed to be almost undetectable with radar. It’s 50 times harder to detect than other destroyers in its fleet, and it will be even stealthier after some testing equipment is removed. Its radar cross section is similar to that of a small fishing boat. In fact, when a lobsterman in Maine, Lawrence Pye, was near the ship, he thought it was a 40-foot fishing boat – not a 610-foot warship.

“It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” Pye told AP.

It’s not the first time the Zumwalt has interacted with fishermen. It happened once before, but under completely different conditions. In December, the ship actually answered the distress call of a fisherman who had a heart attack. The man was saved.

Indeed, it’s so stealthy that it can actually be dangerous and trick unsuspecting ships. The possibility of a collision is generally quite small, but civilian mariners might not see it during bad weather or at night. For this reason, the ship will be equipped with massive reflectors, ironically to make it less stealthy. The reflective material that will be used aboard the Zumwalt will look like metal cylinders. Other vessels have also used the material during difficult navigation conditions, and this should eliminate any risk of collision.

This destroyer is unlike anything that’s ever been built for any navy (as far as I could find). Aside for the anti-radar technology it features a wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull, composite deckhouse, electric propulsion and new guns. But the price tag is there – around $4 billion, 200 times more than SETI’s budget for an entire year, and two times more than the entire budget for the Curiosity mission, which put a rover to Mars.


It’s the Motherload: $17 Billion in Loot Found on Sunken Galleon off Colombian Coast

A ship missing for over 300 years has been rediscovered, according to Colombian authorities – a boat with an estimated $17 billion in loot.

The San Jose blowing up. Image via Wikipedia.

San José was a 60-gun, 3-masted galleon of the Spanish Navy. It was launched in 1698, and was sunk in the battle off the coast of Cartagena in 1708, during a succession war. The war was fought between Spanish forces loyal to the Hapsburg Dynasty and those loyal to Prince Phillip, the next in line for succession. It’s estimated that the ship carried around 10 million pesos at the time, which brings the total estimated value of the haul to be up to $17 billion.

“Without room for any doubt, we have found, 307 years after it sank, the San Jose galleon,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced at a press conference on Saturday, claiming it for his country (what year is it again?).

However, this hasn’t yet been confirmed by an external scientific body, and the excavation could take years to come. The Colombian government is already treating it as a state secret though, to avoid plundering. They claim it’s in a different location than any previous claimant.

Historically, the ship also carries an important legacy.

“The heat of the blast came very hot upon us, and several splinters of plank and timber came on board us afire,” English Commodore Charles Wager, who led the the four-ship squadron that fought the Spanish treasure ship, wrote. “I believe the ship’s side blew out, for she caused a sea that came in our ports. She immediately sank with all her riches,” Wager said.

During the battle, the powder magazines of San José detonated, destroying the ship with most of her crew and the gold, silver, emeralds and jewellery collected in the South American colonies to finance the Spanish king’s war effort. Other individuals claim to have found the wreck in other places, but its exact whereabouts remained a mystery.

Origins of mysterious World Trade Center ship discovered

When the huge reconstruction work began at the World Trade Center following 2001’s tragedy, constructors uncovered something no one was expecting to find there – a wooden ship, right under where the twin towers used to stand.

Measuring 22 feet (6.7 meters), the skeleton of the ship went unexplained for years. Now, scientists analyzing the rings from the trees used as wood showed that it was built sometime in 1773 or soon after that, probably in a small shipyard in Philadelphia. To make it even more interesting, it was probably constructed using the same white oak trees used to build parts of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.

How they figured it out

Archaeologists have carefully monitored the entire building site. Among others, they found animal bones, bottles, ceramic pieces, and of course, the ship. Piece by piece, it was carefully extracted from the ground and sent to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory where it was soaked in water, to prevent the wood from cracking or breaking. After this, it was sent to the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. There, researchers cut thin slices and analyzed the tree rings.

In order to determine when the trees were cut and from where, they used a technique called dendrochronology. Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings, also known as growth rings. After they establish how old the trees are, they then compare the rings to other previously studied rings from trees in other areas, checking for similarities.

 “What makes the tree-ring patterns in a certain region look very similar, in general, is climate,” said the leader of the new study, Dario Martin-Benito, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. “Regional ring patterns arise from local rain levels and temperatures, with wetter periods producing thicker rings and drier periods producing smaller rings”, he added.

He and his colleagues narrowed the place of tree origin to the eastern United States. Their search was aided by the keel of the ship, which contained hickory, a tree found only in eastern North America and eastern Asia – and eastern Asia was not really a possibility. If the trees had been more common, the search would have been more difficult.

The tree ring growth patterns were very similar to those previously obtained from rings found in old living trees and historic wood samples from the Philadelphia area.

“We could see that at that time in Philadelphia, there were still a lot of old-growth forests, and [they were] being logged for shipbuilding and building Independence Hall,” Martin-Benito told Live Science. “Philadelphia was one of the most — if not the most — important shipbuilding cities in the U.S. at the time. And they had plenty of wood so it made lots of sense that the wood could come from there.”

There are two main theories as to how the ship got there in the first place. Either it simply sank accidentally or it was purposely submerged to become part of a landfill, to strengthen Manhattan’s coast line.

Oil Company will build the longest vessel ever

Well despite what you may think, the oil industry is doing better than ever. With a length of 468 meters, this giant will be exploiting the Prelude gas field, about 500 km away from Australia, relying on a Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) plant. However, the vessel will be too far away from land to be connected to a pipeline, so Shell wants to use a liquid natural gas plant right on the ship.

“In simple terms, the facility can be compared to an island with a liquid natural gas plant on it,” says Shell’s Neil Gilmour.

Still, the second largest ship is only 10 meters shorter, but it will weigh so much more, and displace 600,000 tonnes of water. Mark Lambert of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects in London says the job will be quite a challenge, but he has faith in the project.

“It’s feasible,” he says, “but they will have to be very careful about how it flexes along its length if fatigue cracking is to be avoided.”

Picture from NewScientist