In July 2010, construction workers recovered the jumbled remains of a 32-foot wooden ship from about 20 feet below the ground level. Workers were digging out a pit for the 1 World Trade Center’s Vehicular Security Center. Now researchers have revealed that the ship was built from wood cut around 1773, about two years before the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
The ship was built from the same white oak used in the Independence Hall
Scientists at the Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory published the findings in the July issue of the journal Tree Ring Research. Researchers said the white oak used in the ship’s frame was from a Philadelphia-region forest. In fact, it matched the white oak used to build the Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Independence Hall was built between 1732 and 1753.
Researchers identified the vessel as a “Dutch-designed Philadelphia-built sloop.” It was most likely used to carry cargo and passengers over shallow, rocky water. The Columbia experts sliced through portions of the ship, and dated the wood by analyzing tree rings. They sourced it to a geographical area by comparing its ring patterns with ring patterns in archaeological samples and live trees.
The ship most likely made a trip to the Caribbean
At the time, Philadelphia was one of the most important shipbuilding cities in the United States. Dario Martin-Benito, lead author of the study, said that the ship sailed for 20 to 30 years. Damage to the vessel by a specific worm also indicates that it possible made a trip to the Caribbean. However, experts are still uncertain whether the ship was purposely weighted down and sunk to as part of a landfill to extend lower Manhattan in 1810 or it sank accidentally.
Construction workers also found a 100-pound iron anchor just a few meters from the hull, which was possibly from the old ship.
It’s the second ship excavated from lower Manhattan in the last four decades. In 1982, archaeologists had unearthed an 18th-century cargo on Water Street.