1911 shipwreck identified off Florida coast

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Dec 5th, 2012 @ 8:15am


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KEY LARGO, Fla. &#8212 The remains of a shipwreck in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have been identified to be those of an early-20th-century British steamship.

Maritime archaeologists confirmed the ship to be the Hannah M. Bell, which grounded on a shallow reef six miles offshore Key Largo on April 4., 1911. The ship, loaded with coal and bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico, was abandoned after its engine room flooded and its holds filled with water.

There were no lives lost in the accident. By May, heavy storms had torn the wreck apart.

The 315-foot steel-hulled steamship was built in 1893 and made frequent transatlantic trips before it was destroyed, according to the National Marine Sanctuaries. Archaeologists were able to identify the ship by comparing it to historical records.

"Similar to the way detectives use forensic information to solve a crime, we compared the dimensions and construction characteristics of the shipwreck with historic shipping records in order to solve this mystery," said Matthew Lawrence, a maritime archaeologist and the project's principal investigator.

lawrence said the measurements of the shipwreck were "virtually identical" to records for the Hannah M. Bell, which was named after the woman who christened it.

The Hannah M. Bell was not the first ship claimed by the shallow coral reefs of the Florida Keys. The reefs have claimed "countless" others, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and once contributed to a thriving salvaging industry.

The ship rests near two other shipwrecks: the USS Arkansas and the City of Washington.

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