BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A long-lost whaling ship from a port in Massachusetts has finally been located.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced the discovery of the wreckage of the whaling ship that sunk back in 1836 called Industry Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship was built in 1815 in Westport and had been in service for 20 years before it sunk.
Industry sunk on May 26, 1836, after a strong storm snapped its masts and burst open the ship's hull. The location of the ship was first spotted in 2011 by an energy company and was viewed briefly by an autonomous vehicle in 2017.
NOAA and its partners officially located the vessel on Feb. 25, 2022, using a remotely operated vehicle. The ship was found about 75 nautical miles away from its last recorded location at about 6,000 feet below the surface.
NOAA and its partners were able to identify the wreckage as Industry thanks to new high-resolution cameras to film the wreckage in detail and historical documents that verified the length of the ship was the same as that of the wreckage. They also used evidence that the ship had been salvaged before it sank because the wreckage had little artifacts onboard.
Industry itself is also a historic ship, as records show its crews and officers were often composed of Black and Indigenous whalers. The crew for the final voyage is unknown because the log was lost when the boat sank.
The ship's navigator was the son of Paul Cuffe, a famed mariner, and entrepreneur who was the son of a freed slave and a Wampanoag woman. One of its officers was also believed to be Pardon Cook, a man credited with the most whaling of voyages of any Black person in American history.
“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,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said in a statement. “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.”
NOAA learned of the fate of the crew on the ship thanks to research from Robin Winters, a librarian at the Westport Free Public Library. Winters found the crew of Industry was picked up at sea by another Whaling ship from Westport called Elizabeth. They were eventually safely returned to Westport.
James Delgado, the senior vice president of SEARCH Inc., a company that helped discover the wreckage, said in a statement it was fortunate that the crew was rescued, especially if the crew was comprised of mostly Black and Indigenous people.
“If the Black crewmen had tried to go ashore, they would have been jailed under local laws," Delgado said. "And if they could not pay for their keep while in prison, they would have been sold into slavery.”
WBZ's Tim Dunn (@ConsiderMeDunn) reports.