A chunk of weather-beaten flotsam that washed up on a New York shoreline after Tropical Storm Ian last year has piqued the interest of experts who say it is likely part of the SS Savannah, which ran aground and broke apart in 1821, two years after it became the first vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean partly under steam power.
The about 4m square piece of wreckage was spotted in October off Fire Island, a barrier island that hugs Long Island’s southern shore, and is now in the custody of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. It is to work with US National Park Service officials to identify the wreckage and put it on public display.
“It was pretty thrilling to find it,” said Betsy DeMaria, a museum technician at the park service’s Fire Island National Seashore. “We definitely are going to have some subject matter experts take a look at it and help us get a better view of what we have here.”
It might be difficult to identify the wreckage with 100 percent certainty, but park service officials said that the Savannah is a top contender among Fire Island’s known shipwrecks.
Explorers have searched for the Savannah for more than two centuries, but have not found anything they could definitively link to the famous ship.
The newly discovered wreckage “very well could be” a piece of the historic shipwreck, said Ira Breskin, a senior lecturer at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx. “It makes perfect sense.”
Evidence includes the 2.5cm-to-3.3cm wooden pegs holding the wreckage’s planks together, consistent with a 30.5m vessel, park service officials said in a statement.
The Savannah was 30m long.
The wreckage’s iron spikes suggest a ship built in about 1820, the officials said.
The Savannah was built in 1818.
Breskin, author of The Business of Shipping, said that the Savannah’s use of steam power was so advanced for its time that the May 24, 1819, start of its transatlantic voyage is commemorated as National Maritime Day.
“It’s important because they were trying to basically show the viability of a steam engine to make it across the pond,” he said.
A nautical archeologist should be able to help identify the Fire Island wreckage, which appears likely to be from the Savannah, Breskin said.
“It’s plausible, and it’s important, and it’s living history if the scientists confirm that it is what we think it is,” he said.
The Savannah, a sailing ship outfitted with a 90-horsepower steam engine, traveled mainly under sail across the Atlantic, using steam power for 80 hours of the nearly month-long passage to Liverpool, England.
Crowds cheered as the Savannah sailed from Liverpool to Sweden and Russia and then back to its home port of Savannah, Georgia, but the ship was not a financial success, in part because people were afraid to travel on the hybrid vessel. The Savannah’s steam engine was removed and sold after the ship’s owners suffered losses in the Great Savannah Fire of 1820.
The Savannah was transporting cargo between Savannah and New York when it ran aground off Fire Island. It later broke apart. The crew made it safely to shore and the cargo of cotton was salvaged, but the Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Gazette reported that “Captain Holdridge was considerably hurt by being upset in the boat.”
Explorers have searched for the Savannah over the two centuries since, but have not found anything they could definitively link to the famous ship — until now, perhaps.
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: The US destroyer’s routine operations in the South China Sea would have ‘serious consequences,’ the defense ministry said China yesterday threatened “serious consequences” after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a breach of its sovereignty and security. The warning came amid growing tensions between China and the US in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing’s growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims virtually in its entirety. On Thursday, after the US sailed the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and
India yesterday summoned Canada’s high commissioner in India to “convey strong concern” over Sikh protesters in Canada and how they were allowed to breach the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. Canadian media reported that hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over demands for an independent Sikh state, a simmering issue for decades that was triggered again in the past few weeks. Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India. “It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the
‘DUAL PURPOSE’: Upgrading the port is essential for the Solomon Islands’ economy and might not be military focused, but ‘it is not about bases, it is about access,’ an analyst said The Solomon Islands has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, a Solomon Islands official said yesterday. China Civil Engineering Construction Co (CCECC) was the only company to submit a bid in the competitive tender, Solomon Islands Ministry of Infrastructure Development official Mike Qaqara said. “This will be upgrading the old international port in Honiara and two domestic wharves in the provinces,” Qaqara said. Responding to concerns that the port could be deepened for Chinese naval access, he said there would be “no expansion.” The Solomon
The US Department of Justice on Friday unveiled spying charges against a Russian who, under a Brazilian alias, studied at a Washington university and then tried to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The indictment of Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov said it would try to contest his extradition to Russia from Brazil, where he is jailed on identity fraud charges. Cherkasov, 39, was detained at the beginning of April last year by Dutch authorities for using fake identity papers. He arrived in the country as Viktor Muller Ferreira, a Brazilian, to take a position at the ICC as a junior analyst. The