Changing Planet

The Monterrey Shipwreck: More Artifacts Recovered

ROV Hercules recovers a partial musket from the Monterrey Shipwreck.

National Geographic Grantee and Texas State University Research Faculty Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann and a team of leading archaeologists are conducting an expedition to the Monterrey Shipwreck in order to carry out the deepest archaeological shipwreck excavation ever in North America. Follow along with Fritz’s updates from the field.

 By Fritz Hanselmann

Unfortunately, our satellite went down around 10:45pm July 22 and with OET personnel working around the clock it was back up at 6:45pm July 23.  I am just now able to update you from the Gulf of Mexico and we are lucky that we have had very few breakdowns with our technology that allows us to broadcast live and to keep everyone informed on the project’s progress.  While the satellite was down, we were able to actually finish documentation and test excavations on the Monterrey Shipwreck.  We also recovered a number of other exciting artifacts, including a largely intact spyglass or telescope, an ivory brush, the leather sole of a shoe, and three muskets of British origin, that were mass-produced and widely used in North America and throughout the regions surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.  We have recovered around 60 artifacts and have carried out extensive mapping and documentation efforts on the site, both before and after excavation.  Again, these artifacts bring to mind the struggles and successes of those who preceded us and as my very good friend and team member Jim Delgado says, “Archaeology at it’s best is about people, and in this wreck, we are confronted again by the evidence that history is about ordinary people like you and me, often caught up in circumstances beyond our control.”  It is our hope that we can bring their story to light.

Funding provided by foundations and individual donors through the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and the Office of Advancement at Texas State University, the Way Family Foundation, and the Harte Family Foundation. 

NEXT: Two More Shipwrecks!

Frederick "Fritz" Hanselmann is Research Faculty, who serves as the Chief Underwater Archaeologist and Diving Program Director with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. He is also the director of The Meadows Center's Underwater Archaeology and Exploration Initiative. Fritz learned how to swim at age three, and has been in love with the water ever since, having been taught to breath hold dive by his grandfather diving for golf balls tied in a sock in the Gulf of Mexico. Having worked on underwater sites from a wide variety of time periods, his research ranges from submerged prehistoric deposits in springs and caves to historic shipwrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the wreck of the Quedagh Merchant, abandoned by Captain Kidd in 1699 off the coast of Hispaniola. Fritz led the first-ever archaeological survey of the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama as the initial phase of the ongoing Río Chagres Maritime Landscape Study. One aspect of this study is the Lost Ships of Henry Morgan Project, the search for the famous privateer's sunken ships. He is one of the Principal Investigators of the Monterrey Shipwreck Project in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the deepest shipwreck excavation ever conducted in North America, in collaboration with three federal agencies, three universities, and three non-profit organizations. Fritz is also the co-director of the Sunken Ships of Colombia project, which focuses on finding, documenting, studying, and managing historic shipwrecks along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The Spring Lake Underwater Archaeology Project on the university's campus also falls under his supervision and he assists other projects in Mexico and Texas as part of the Initiative. Fritz also focuses on capacity building and training for archaeologists and heritage managers in less developed countries, as well as the development of marine protected areas and underwater preserves. He is a GUE Cave and Technical Diver, a Nautical Archaeology Society Tutor, a certified scuba instructor, an ambassador for Aquadive Watches, and a fellow of the Explorer’s Club. Fritz regularly gives public lectures and presentations for museums, universities, and other organizations.

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