Experts Say Pieces Of Shipwreck Found Likely From History-Making Vessel SS Savannah

[Screenshot/YouTube/The Mariner's Museum and Park]

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A 13-foot chunk of wood that washed up on Long Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian is likely from the history-making sailing vessel SS Savannah, experts say.

The weather-beaten piece of wreckage was found in October 2022 along the coast of a barrier island that hugs Long Island’s southern shore known as Fire Island, the Associated Press (AP) reported Friday. Though it is challenging to determine with absolute certainty, National Park Service officials believe the piece of flotsam is likely from the historic shipwreck that ran aground near the island in 1821. (RELATED: ‘Goonies’ Shipwreck Discovered Off West Coast)

The SS Savannah was the hybrid of its day, becoming the first sailing ship to cross the Atlantic with the aid of steam power after being outfitted with a 90-horsepower steam engine, according to AP. For the month-long journey to Liverpool, England, the ship’s newly-fitted engine was used for 80 hours due to the limited amount of coal the ship could carry, according to the National Museum of American History. The owners of the new technology were so doubtful that no passengers or cargo were aboard the vessel for the 1819 journey, the museum added.

“It was pretty thrilling to find it. We definitely are going to have some subject matter experts take a look at it and help us get a better view of what we have here,” Betsy DeMaria, a museum technician at the park service’s Fire Island National Seashore, told AP.

In 1820, the Savannah’s engine was removed and it was put into service as a coastal packet ship until it was lost off the coast of Long Island in 1821, according to the museum.

Researchers have spent the last 200 year searching for the wreckage, but have found nothing that could definitively link anything to the famous ship, AP reported. The newest piece of flotsam has changed that: The roughly one-inch wooden pegs holding the wreckage’s planks together are consistent with vessels that are approximately 100 feet in length. At 98 feet, six inches long, the Savannah meets that criteria, the outlet continued, citing park officials.

In addition, the iron spikes found on the piece of wreckage indicate the ship the flotsam once belonged to was built around 1820. As the Savannah was built in 1818, the evidence again points to a possible connection with the historic vessel, AP reported.

Ira Breskin, a senior lecturer at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, agrees with the National Park Service’s assessment, telling AP the wreckage “very well could be” part of the famous ship.

“It makes perfect sense,” Breskin said.