Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 1:44 pm | updated Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 3:30 pm
The new exhibit at the Museum of Science & History, “Odyssey’s Shipwreck! Pirates & Treasure,” is “the largest traveling exhibit ever at MOSH,” says Maria Hane, the museum’s executive director.
Its collection of artifacts and interactive exhibits, spread over two floors at MOSH, documents several of the shipwreck sites that have been salvaged by Odyssey Marine Exploration, an American company whose mission is “is to search the world’s oceans and discover shipwrecks with interesting stories, artifacts and treasures.”
The exhibit at MOSH devotes a great deal of attention to the wreck of the SS Republic, a Civil War-era sidewheel steamship lost in a hurricane off the coast of Georgia in October 1865. In route to New Orleans from New York, it carried a large cargo of silver and gold coins and a variety of everyday items such as ceramics, bottles, religious items and glassware. It was found by Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2003 about 1,700 feet below the surface. The archaeological excavation conducted in 2003 and 2004 was entirely through the use of advanced robotics, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called Zeus, which “provides the hands and the eyes” of an Odyssey exploration, said Ellen Gerth, Odyssey’s archaeological curator. Its operator works aboard a surface ship.
The Zeus ROV, one of which visitors encounter when entering the second floor gallery, weighs 8 tons and is about the size of a SUV, It can retrieve items as small as a coin as well as objects weighing up to 200 pounds. More than 51,000 U.S. gold and silver coins were recovered from the Republic wreck, as well as more than 14,000 artifacts, some of which are on display at MOSH.
During the search for the SS Robinson, Odyssey found the sunken remains of an unidentified sailing vessel off the coast of Jacksonville which they call “Blue China” because of its cargo of blue-decorated ceramics. Over 400 individual artifacts were recovered from the “Blue China” shipwreck site, some of which are included in the MOSH exhibit.
Two other shipwrecks included in the exhibit are the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo steamship that was sunk by a German U-boat on Feb. 17, 1941, approximately 300 miles southwest of Galway, Ireland; and a shipwreck off the Dry Tortugas that is likely the remains of the 117-ton Buen Jesus y Nuestra Senora del Rosario, one of the vessels sailing with the 1622 Tierra Firme treasure fleet bound for Spain and loaded with the wealth of the New World. Artifacts from both wrecks are included in the exhibit, including silver bars which were part of the 110 tons of silver recovered from the wreckage of the Gairsoppa.
In addition to displays of recovered artifacts, there are many interactive areas of the exhibit, which also devotes a section to pirates. There’s a spot where people can experience the force of 75-mph winds, which would qualify as a Category one hurricane. Visitors can also get a taste of operating Zeus’ robotic arm.
Hane said Shipwreck!, which will be MOSH for six months, twice as long as the visiting exhibits usually stay “truly expresses our mission to bring to light regional history and to bring to light cutting-edge science.”
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413