Scientists Trace History Of Shipwreck Discovered At Ground Zero Of The World Trade Center
9-11 remains an event that will go down in history as one that shook the foundations of American democracy. It was a day of loss, tears, rallying unity, and self-abandonment.
In 2010, while the site that once housed the Twin Towers was being evacuated, to pave way for a 9-11 memorial, excavators made a surprising discovery – remains of a ship!
An Unexpected Object Beneath the Grounds of the World Trade Center
During the earth-moving process of preparing the site for the 9-11 memorial, archaeologists were present to casually monitor and observe the proceedings.
It was a July afternoon in 2010 when a particular piece of curved timber caught the light. The earth movers called the attention of the archaeologists to this piece, and they began careful earth removal to unveil still-hidden parts of the object.
It’s A Ship!
Further careful unearthing revealed the timber and other wood pieces were part of a buried ship hull.
The archaeologists were able to evacuate the remains of the ship and moved them to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. Further research revealed that the discovered ship is from 18th Century pre-colonial Philadelphia.
“Dendroprovenancing” Is One Long Word!
Researchers were able to identify the tree from which the ship’s wood was carved. They were even able to peg the felling of the tree to 1773.
Before you start wondering how possible it is to determine the age and source of a log of wood. Well, it is quite possible through a process called “dendroprovenancing.” This process involves analyzing rings of the tree trunk and comparing them to reference rings from a historical catalog.
Same White Oak for The Wooden Vessel and Philadelphia Independence Hall
With the help of dendroprovenancing, researchers determined the chronological profile of the wood from the discovered ship. Then they matched the ship’s wood with several other samples from Virginia, Boston, and other states.
They were able to get perfect matches from 18th-century white oaks from eastern Pennsylvania. Indeed, the researchers believe the wood used in constructing the Pennsylvania Independence Hall in 1776 and the Ground Zero ship is from the same time and locality.
How Did A Ship End Up in Downtown Manhattan?
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were under construction between 1966 and 1975. Despite the volume of earth moving and piling involved in the twin tower’s construction, the ship wreckage was undiscovered.
However, fast forward to 2010, and the remains of the ship were found 6.7 m below the ground. It is quite an unlikely find, which probably indicates that present-day Lower Manhattan was reclaimed from the sea.
From A Freight Vessel to Land Filling Barrier
Though constructed in Pennsylvania, researchers believe the ship was a freight vessel that frequented the Hudson River. And after being in active service for about two decades, sailed to Lower Manhattan and sunk, probably by accident.
However, the researchers also suggested that the buried ship could have been left at the shore during the landfilling effort in Lower Manhattan. For such projects, all available wooden structures must have been used as wedges and dykes.
What to Do With the Ship Remains
After the brief hiatus at Columbia University, most of the excavated ship was moved to Texas A&M University for storage. As of today, the remains belong to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the body overseeing Empire State reconstruction.
Several benefits could be gleaned from these seemingly useless chunks of wood that have spent about 200 years buried underground.
The Discovery Could Help With Climate Change Studies
According to Jason Conwall, a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., consultations are ongoing with experts about the best use of the ship remains. However, from all indications, the ship will likely get preserved and used in future research.
For example, researchers are certain that information about the trend of climate change and forest ecology can be deduced from wood.
Our Tears and Labors are Not In Vain
Neil Pederson, one of the research scientists that worked on the ship’s chronological history, was glad for all the relevant data they could source.
The data has proven relevant for telling the history of Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan. But it doesn’t stop there. There are several research potentials for the data from the World Trade Center vessel, now and in the future.