Drought surfaces ship near Cape Girardeau - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Drought surfaces ship near Cape Girardeau

They're keeping the location secret in order to keep the discovery safe. They're keeping the location secret in order to keep the discovery safe.

Oh the stories it could tell ... a ship wrecked long ago is now visible along the Mississippi river. It's a treasure, revealed now because of drought conditions.  

Amy Grammer of Cape Girardeau actually stumbled across it while she was walking along the river with her husband.

"I couldn't believe it!," said Amy.

Now she's part of a group asking for help from local and state experts to move forward with an archeological dig.

They're keeping the location secret in order to keep the discovery safe. We can only tell you it's near Cape Girardeau.

Grammer made the discovery almost two weeks ago.

"I was just walking and enjoying things," said Amy Grammer. "I walked right past it. I saw the front edge of it"

She knew immediately it was a ship and called for her husband Russell.

"I am in unbelief, right?" said Russell Grammer.

The couple runs Prodigy Leadership Academy. As educators they knew this was quite a find.

Right away the they called in Randy Barnhouse who is a local known for his work hunting down ship wrecks near Florida.

"This is a jewel of a ship wreck," said Barnhouse. "I am just as excited about this as the ship wrecks I helped salvage this summer off the east coast of Florida."

Careful to preserve the value, they've only examined the outside and measured it.

"We can speculate there are some characteristics of the ship that make us think it's an old form of a barge, but we can't say for sure," said Barnhouse. "It's a total mystery right now. We are careful not to touch it and we want to wait until all the permits are in place. From the outside we can see it either has a steele or iron hull. It it's iron that would tell us it's older."

It's about 14 feet wide and at least 35 feet long. Barnhouse says there's no telling how deep it is or what could be inside.

"We want to preserve the artifacts so that years from now you can peel the layers away, see how it was arranged, and tell the story of this ship," said Barnhouse. "It's going to be great for education and for shipwreck archeology." 

Barnhouse says he feels it almost certainly sank ... but how?  

"Perhaps it tore lose from a dock and floated here and sank," said Barnhouse. "Perhaps it had some cataclysmic breach of the hull and it sank quickly, perhaps people even went down with it. It's sitting upright here so that tells us when it did go down it had a heavy engine or cargo or something that helped it settle upright."

Right now, it's hard to tell exactly what it may have looked like, or say just how old it is.

"If it is 100 years old it is remarkably preserved,' Barnhouse said."The theory is it was preserved by sediments that cut off oxygen that could get to the wreck and decompose the wood and metal."

So now it's a race against time and the elements. Barnhouse quickly set to work applying for permits and they are on the hunt for an archeologist. They want to unlock the ship's mysteries and preserve the history for years to come.

"It's definitely a ship in peril," said Russell Grammer. "We want to do as much work as we can before the weather gets to it, or water covers it again."

Grammer brought his students down last week to see it.

"I am excited about the educational opportunities we have. This is what learning is all about," said Grammer. "The students were really excited to see it and they asked a lot of really interesting questions. We can not wait to look for clues."

The permit process is long and tedious. They must get approval from the Corps of Engineers and the state. Right now they are putting the call out for an archeologist who can get on board, and that's key.

"We've already filed permits with the Corps of Engineers," said Barnhouse. "We are looking for a sponsor as well who might help us out. Finding an archeologist is really important. If one does not step up, we hope the state will provide one. We really hope they see the value in this operation."  

They will also have to seek permits from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.  

The site is monitored to keep the vessel safe, and Barnhouse says it's against the law to disturb it.

If you want to help call: 573-579-5381

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