Watch: 207 Years Old Whaling Ship Known To Go Down In Gulf Of Mexico

About 15 years before Moby Dick was introduced by Herman Melville, a whaling ship from Massachusetts sank near the mouth of river Mississippi. After 207 years, experts mentioned, it still happens to be the only whaler that has gone down the Gulf of Mexico, where enslavement at Southern ports was a cause of risk for mixed-race and Black seafarers who often formed part of whaling crews.

207 year old whaling ship
This image of an anchor was taken from the 1836 shipwreck site of brig Industry in the Gulf of Mexico by the NOAA ROV deployed from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer on February 25, 2022. (NOAA Ocean Exploration)

Researchers observing odd shapes during undersea scanning on the sandy ocean floor believe that they have finally come across the shipwreck about 70 miles offshore from Pascagoula in Mississippi. In February, it was documented by robots remotely operated in nearly 6,000 feet of water.

Barely anything remains of the wooden brig that boasted two masts and was once thought to be Industry. The 65-foot-long whaler reportedly foundered following a storm in 1836. An old news clipping highlights its 15 crew members had been rescued by yet another whaling ship and managed to head home to Westport in Massachusetts.

NOAA Ocean Exploration documented the brig Industry shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 6,000 feet below the Gulf surface. The brig sank in the summer of 1836 after a storm snapped its masts and opened the hull to the sea. (NOAA Ocean Exploration)

At the time, the Gulf was a major hunting ground for sperm whales, especially valuable for both the quality and quantity of their oil. Rick Spinrad, an NOAA Administrator, said that the discovery is going to help better understand the rich story of how men of color succeeded as crew members or captains in the nascent-American whaling industry.

This image of the tryworks was taken from the shipwreck site of brig Industry by a NOAA ROV. The tryworks was a cast iron stove with two deep kettles used to render whale blubber into oil. It was manufactured by G & W Ashbridge, a Philadelphia company. (NOAA Ocean Exploration)

Southern slaveowners tried preventing enslaved individuals from seeing Native Americans, Whites, Blacks, and others, all free and working for equal pay. Lee Blake, a historian pointed out that there was a series of laws and regulations for a crew entering a Southern port in presence of mixed-race or African-American seafarers on board. In such situations, the vessel was impounded and the crew would be in custody until the vessel departed. Black crew members were often abducted and also enslaved.


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