Mardi Gras Wreck (19th century)

The Mardi Gras wreck was first recorded during a 2001 remote sensing survey for the Okeanos Gas Gathering Company’s proposed pipeline route in the Mississippi Canyon leasing area. The side scan sonar image appeared as a nebulous feature on the seafloor not clearly indicative of a shipwreck. An ROV inspection of the proposed pipeline route in 2002 for the operator determined that the sonar target was indeed the remains of a wooden-hulled vessel but the operator failed to notify MMS (now BOEM and BSEE) of the discovery. MMS later learned of the site in 2004 and was able to briefly visit the wreck for visual documentation and collection of two diagnostic artifacts to assist with dating the site. In 2005, C&C Technologies conducted an AUV survey to collect multibeam bathymetric data at the site. A 2006 ROV investigation of the site overseen by MMS archaeologists performed additional video documentation.

Pre-Disturbance Photomosaic of the Mardi Gras Shipwreck in 2007.

As a result of the operator’s failure to notify MMS of the wreck’s discovery, a data recovery project was conducted in 2007 to further document the site and recover additional diagnostic artifacts.  The team was composed of scientists from Texas A&M University, MMS, and the Florida Public Archaeology Network, among other partners. The extant remains measured 48 ft. (14.6 m) in length by 14 ft. (4.3 m) in width and contained artifacts including ceramic tableware, glass bottles, navigational instruments, sand clocks (hour glasses), a cannon, a cast-iron stove, an anchor, a wooden chest containing small arms, and personal items. The artifacts represented several different nationalities such as English, Spanish, German, and French. The vessel may have originally measured a little more than 50 ft. (15 m) in length with a beam of 18 ft. (5.8 m) or more. Based on these investigations, the Mardi Gras wreck may be the remains of a small schooner that was lost between 1808 and the 1820s. Though the vessel’s exact age, nationality, and function are not firmly established, the vessel could have operated as a privateer or a merchant ship during what was a turbulent time in the Gulf of Mexico. Out of all of the sites investigated during this project, the Mardi Gras wreck is the nearest wooden-hulled vessel to the Macondo wellhead.

Mardi Gras Shipwreck site plan from 2007 project. Illustration by Ben Ford.