War of 1812 ship search in Charleston Harbor ongoing

The team searching for the remains of a sunken ship from the War of 1812 in Charleston Harbor said they’ve found some promising sites but nothing definitive.

Underwater archaeologist Jim Spirek said Thursday that several mounds have been detected off the city’s downtown waterfront, but no clear evidence of a wreck.

“We came over several piles that looked like rock or ballast,” said Spirek, of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Searchers are looking for the remains of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Gallatin, which exploded on the morning of April 1, 1813.

Officials believe crew members were cleaning the ship’s supply of pistols and muskets but accidentally triggered a spark near the vessel’s supply of gunpowder.

Searchers this week are using sonar and bottom-profiling equipment to located “anomalies” on the harbor bottom.

Among the items they are trying to locate are stone blocks or iron bars that could have been used as ship’s ballast.

At the time of the explosion the Gallatin was said to be anchored near Blake’s Wharf, but records indicate there were two such named Blake’s Wharfs in the city’s history, Spirek said, hindering the search area.

The most promising range appears to be the waterside between the U.S. Customhouse and the Old Exchange Building, Spirek added.

Divers could go back in the water again today, the last day scheduled for the initial search. Low tides and wind prevent searchers from getting into all the areas of the waterfront they wanted. “For the most part I think we did get pretty good coverage,” Spirek said.

The 100-foot ship, armed with up to eight cannons, patrolled the coast for British and other shipping during the war. Three crewmen died in the explosion.



Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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