An oil company exploration crew's chance discovery of a 200-year-old shipwreck in a little-charted stretch of the Gulf of Mexico is yielding a trove of new information to scientists who say it's one of the most well-preserved old wrecks ever found in the gulf.
"When we saw it we were all just astonished because it was beautifully preserved, and by that I mean for a 200-year-old shipwreck," said Jack Irion, maritime archaeologist with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in New Orleans.
Video shows muskets and gin bottles littering the gulf bottom, along with sea life mingling in the wreck.
Scientists say the ship is about 200 miles off the northern Gulf Coast and about 4,000 feet deep. The depth has kept it largely undisturbed during two centuries of storms and hurricanes. Although most of the ship's wood dissolved long ago, the copper hull and its contents remain intact.
The ship's kitchen stove was found intact.
"Very few shipwrecks have been found that still have the stove intact," Irion said. "You can very clearly see the features of the stove. It's in rather good shape."
Also discovered were an anchor, cannons and muskets. Irion said researchers have not yet determined whether it was a merchant, military or pirate ship.
There was plenty of pirate and military activity in the gulf at the time, surrounding the War of 1812, the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War. The buccaneer Jean Lafitte and other pirates sailed the Gulf to smuggle goods into New Orleans, Galveston, Texas, and elsewhere.
Researchers believe the ship likely sank during a storm.