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Wreck of only sunken Gulf whaler discovered 190 years later

Posted at 10:19 AM, Mar 23, 2022

Researchers say they've found what's believed to be the wreck of the only whaling ship known to sink in the Gulf of Mexico.

A NOAA exploration in February documented remains of what's believed to be the whaling ship Industry, about 70 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The ship sank in a storm in 1836, and its crew of 15 men was returned safely to Westport, Massachusetts.


While the Gulf was a rich hunting ground for whaling ships, experts say many vessels had mixed-race crews and the threat of enslavement at Southern ports posed a risk.

According to the NOAA, the whaling brig was built in 1815 in Westport, Massachusetts, and hunted whales across the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico for 20 years. It was lost when a strong storm snapped its masts and opened its hull to the sea on May 26, 1836.

Industry was whaling primarily for sperm whales more than 70 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River. It is the only whaling ship known to have been lost in the Gulf of Mexico out of 214 whaling voyages from the 1780s to the 1870s.

They report that the remains of the 64-foot long, two-masted wooden brig opens a window into a little-known chapter of American history when descendants of African enslaved people and Native Americans served as essential crew in one of the nation’s oldest industries.

“Black and Native American history is American history, and this critical discovery serves as an important reminder of the vast contributions Black and Native Americans have made to our country,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “This 19th-century whaling ship will help us learn about the lives of the Black and Native American mariners and their communities, as well as the immense challenges they faced on land and at sea.”


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