Recently, Thunderbird Archeology, a division of Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc., retained VIKA Virginia’s surveying services to conduct a 3D laser scan of a buried historic treasure in Old Town Alexandria: a large, heavy ship likely scuttled in the late 1770s to 1790s.
Archaeologists found the partial hull of the ship in the same area where two months ago a builder also found the 1755 foundation of a warehouse, which may have been Alexandria’s first public building. Construction crews discovered the sunken ship’s bow as they were excavating the site for construction of the 120-room Indigo Hotel at 220 South Union Street.
The nearly 50-foot long remnant of the ship’s keel, frame, stern, and flooring is estimated to be about one-third the size of the ship’s original hull. As a nearly 150-foot vessel, the ship was likely built to carry heavy cargo or serve as a military ship.
This historical find is particularly exciting because the City of Alexandria has no records of the ship’s existence. Ship remnants may have been placed at their location to expand the shoreline along the Potomac River. The blackened bow did not decay because it was buried and preserved. The huge brick footing of a later warehouse did not disturb it.
The public was allowed to view the remnants on Tuesday, January 5, 2016, while the architectural firm and naval archaeologists took the wooden vessel apart, piece by piece, and removed it from the site. The City of Alexandria may preserve the ship for public display and salvage it for future study and possible conservation and reconstruction.
The Friends of the Alexandria Archeology have launched the “Save Our Ship” Campaign to raise the much-needed funds in hopes of preserving the fragile wood timbers for future generations to study.