Excavation of Ship 3 (Feature 159)
The wooden vessel has recently been more fully exposed in
preparation for excavation. A retaining wall installed through the ship allows
archaeologists to work safely on the section within the footprint of the future
parking garage. The remainder of the ship outside the wall near and under Wolfe
Street will be preserved in the ground. Contract archaeologists with the
assistance of City staff are carefully documenting, excavating, and stabilizing
the ship’s timbers.
This vessel is the largest and most intact of the four ships found
along the waterfront since 2015. The length of the hull runs a few degrees off
the street grid and at a steep angle from west to east, suggesting the slope of
the original shoreline. The hull fragment within the project area is roughly 85
feet long and about 30 feet wide at its widest point. For comparison, the three
other ships discovered at Robinson Landing and at the site of the Hotel Indigo
each measured about 50 feet in length and 15 feet in width. Because of the
size, Ship 3 could have sailed in the open ocean.
From what is visible, this ship does not appear to have been cut in
half along the keel like the other vessels and still has both its port and
starboard sides. Remains of the hull include the presumed bow, ceiling
planking, keelson, framing, futtocks, keel, and hull and sacrificial planking. Preliminary
field evaluation of the materials and construction technique suggests that this
vessel was built sometime in the 18th or early 19th
century. A mixture of trunnels (wooden pegs) and iron fasteners hold the
Based on an examination of historic maps and survey located points on
the ship, we hypothesize that this ship became part of landfill sometime
between 1798 and 1845. Fragments of a wharf structure are set atop of the ship.
A team of contract archaeologists, City staff, and consulting experts will thoroughly document the ship in place using a combination of traditional mapping and 3D documentation (photogrammetry) several times during the excavation process to record the individual layers before carefully excavating it. Additionally, experts will take dendrochronology samples from multiple timbers, which may tell us more about where and when this ship was constructed. Like the two smaller ships excavated earlier this year and the ship from 220 South Union Street discovered in 2015, the City will store the timbers in tanks of water to ensure their continued stabilization while long term plans are developed.
The excavation of Ship 3, looking west.
Ceiling planking, with markings from the ship-builders.
The ship's timbers being placed in a pool of water to preserve the wood.