Photos: 150 Yr Old Wine Found in Shipwreck

June 23, 2011 | 36 Comments

[Updated with additional photos & video] The storm-tossed remains of an American Civil War blockade runner have yielded long-buried secrets to an international team of archaeologists working with Bermuda’s Department of Conservation Services.

A secret stash of wine, lodged inside the bow of the wreck of the Mary Celestia, which lies immediately offshore from the Fairmont Southampton Resort, has emerged from the sand and silt which had shrouded it since the ship struck the reef and sank on September 6, 1864. Five bottles of wine, still packed inside a wooden crate, remained corked with their liquid contents intact after 147 years underwater.

Photo below: Excavation slowly reveals sealed wine bottles inside an intact wooden crate buried inside the bow of the Mary Celestia.

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The top of the crate emerged from the sand inside the bow after a series of winter storms swept over the site in January 2011.

Dr. Philippe Rouja, Bermuda’s Custodian of Historic Wrecks, secured the bow of the wreck after recovering a loose bottle of wine, also still corked, and immediately reached out to colleagues at NOAA and the Waitt Foundation in order to create an expert team with experience in marine heritage management and the excavation of shipwrecks of this period to explore and potentially rescue this unique find.

The Bermuda Government has been working with these eminent institutions since 2009 in the formation of the Sargasso Sea Alliance – an Alliance dedicated to enhancing protection of the Sargasso Sea in which the islands of Bermuda lie.

The Waitt Foundation has underwritten the displacement costs of the initiative for all foreign partners as well as sending Dr. Dominique Rissolo, an archaeologist and executive director of the Waitt Institute, along with Joe Lepore, the Waitt Institute’s chief diver and head of ship operations, to aid in the exploration and recovery of the contents of Mary Celestia’s bow.

Photo below: Archaeologist James Delgado takes notes inside the bow of the Mary Celestia while excavating a sunken cargo of wine lost when the ship sank after hitting the reef.

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Archaeologist Dr. James Delgado, the director of the Maritime Heritage Program in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, joined by two NOAA team members, Tane Casserley and Wayne Lusardi, joined the rest of the team this past week to co-direct the project with Drs. Rouja and Rissolo.

Carefully removing all of the sand and silt from inside the broken but still intact bow of the wrecked blockade runner, the team exposed the wooden crate, intact wooden paneling and shelves, and a corroded metal wash basin rusted fast to the inside of the hull. As Dr. Delgado gently removed the silt from the crate with Dr. Rouja, the tops of the bottles inside slowly emerged with their corks still in place.

“The promise of the one bottle found this past January was realized in that moment,” said Dr. Rouja. “To reveal even more of this lost cargo standing lined up in their wooden crate as if they were waiting for their owner to return is a great reminder of how archaeology adds excitement and value to our shared historical narratives.

Mary Celestia is a wreck with historical significance to the United Kingdom, where she was built, Bermuda, where she operated out of and where she wrecked, and the United States, where she ran to as a blockade runner during the U.S. Civil War.

For the NOAA team, Mary Celestia had special importance. The joint heritage represented by this wreck is a direct link to NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in North Carolina and NOAA’s work to document and better understand and share the stories of the shipwrecks near the wreck of Monitor that speak to the Civil War, World War II, and the shipping that for centuries has been linked to this section of coast, an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Photo below: Archaeologist James Delgado at the bow of the blockade runner 1864 Mary Celestia.

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“The ocean is a vast repository of human history, some of it encompassed in marine protected areas and sanctuaries. Our team was pleased to join this project to help protect and interpret our joint heritage that links this protected shipwreck sites in Bermuda to Wilmington, North Carolina and our nearby sanctuary.” said Dr. Delgado.

“After undergoing laboratory analysis and preservation treatment, the wine and our other finds will tell their story to Bermudians and the rest of the world thanks to modern science.”

The excavation also yielded the remains of leather shoes, rope, a hairbrush and the wooden form for a shoe. After clearing the bow and documenting the fragile wooden structure inside this area of the ship, the team replaced the sand to preserve the wood inside the now empty compartment.

The artifacts are in the conservation laboratory at the National Museum of Bermuda where the effort will shift to further study and preservation treatment.

Photo below: The archaeological team works around the bow of the Mary Celestia as the interior is excavated:

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Derrick Burgess, Minister of Public Works said: “This project is very exciting from so many perspectives – from an archeological point of view, for our local marine heritage and for the compelling story of days long past that will no doubt be of interest to our residents and visitors alike. And for this project to take place during the anniversary of the American Civil War is gives the discovery all the more resonance.”

This discovery in the bow of the Mary Celestia has yielded a long-lost secret in a box of wine stashed away from the ship’s cargo– a cargo at the time said to be nothing more than tinned meats. It compels researchers and scientists to take another look at the historical narrative surrounding one of Bermuda’s most iconic dive sites.

Mary Celestia is a compelling reminder of how the shattered iron bones of a wreck ravaged by time and elements can still connect us to the people of events of long ago.

Photo below: Dr Philippe Rouja and James Delgado excavate inside the bow of the Mary Celestia:

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“I wonder who left that crate in the bow,” commented Dr. Rissolo, “and why. “ That question may forever remain unanswered. But what is clear is that while Mary Celestia may have yielded one of her secrets, she retains others in the form of questions about what type of wine is inside the bottles and where it came from. Scientists will now seek to answer those questions.

This project is being filmed by LookBermuda/LookFilms as part of their upcoming film about the Mary-Celestia and Blockade Running. As well as being broadcast in Bermuda and the US the film will be made available to the island schools via the LookBermuda Educational Media Foundation.

Video trailer below courtesy of LookBermuda:

Jean-Pierre Rouja from LookBermuda says: “This is by far our largest project to date for which we assembled a team from Bermuda, the US and the UK and captured incredible underwater footage which will really showcase this wreck and diving in Bermuda.”

Photos courtesy of Tane Casserley/NOAA, and LookBermuda/Chris Burville. Click to enlarge:

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  1. 150-Year-Old Perfume Found In Shipwreck | Bernews.com | July 1, 2014
  1. cheeks says:

    good stuff guys..really made my day...now use that source to find those shooters pls and thanks

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  2. ONELOVEBDA says:

    this is amazing.

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  3. SMDH LOL says:

    WOW!! I WONDER HOW THOSE MUST TASTE LOL THATS A SUPER HOTT LMAO!!!

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  4. I want the best wine says:

    Can I have a bottle please??????

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  5. 32n64w says:

    Very cool. Thanks for reporting on this Bernews.

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  6. Great find guys, how's going to take the first drink?

    http://www.treasurechasers.com

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  7. Concerned Bermudian says:

    Wow that must taste much better than this 2 year old wine we get from the store. It would be nice if the people could taste our history lol. This is a great find and I hope that they find more on other sunken ships.

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  8. Clafe says:

    HOLD UP PPL,

    dis history and science medness is all well an good (big deal, sum drunk bedrin hid wine in a box a stretch ago). i mean, WHO CARES WUT type of wine it is, it probably tastes old like my grenny (but older, cuz shes not 150 yet). d one important question that nobody seems 2 b answerin is WHO GETS 2 DRINK IT?

    d way I see it, dat wine belongs 2 ALL bermudians. they shuld equally distrbute de contents of de bottle 2 all 70000 bermudians, even if it means guyz only get 1 drop each. FAIR IS FAIR, AM I RIGHT PPL? its not like its enuff 2 get guyz drunk, but they still get 2 taste our heritage.

    i remember one time when i was a yout, my auntie Fork-Shaldra (from up st. davids) wuz climbin a cedar tree in her nightgown n screamin at a bird when all of a sudden she found a ooollllllllddddd bottle of nighttrain hidden in one of de branches. No lie this bottle mustve been like 40 yerrs old, buh. n e way, she wuz going to drink it all by herself, but then my Uncle Foamy came out de house n wuz like "AY GIRL, GET DOWN FROM DAT TREE AND SHARE IT WIF DE REST OF US." so she did, n we all got juiced.

    so ya, i learnd a good lesson from Foamy (whos dead now)...if you find OLD liquor somewhere, share it wif EVERYONE...DOESNT MATTER WHERE YOU FIND IT PPL, IT CULD BE IN A SHIPWRECK, A GARBAGE CAN, A TREE, A COMPLETE STRANGER'S HOUSE, YA ACE CHICKEN'S BACKYARD, DONT MATTER.

    i duneen drink dun, its just de principle of de thing....WAKE UP PPL!

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  9. US Observer says:

    Bravo!!!! LOL

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  10. Weldon Wade says:

    Fantastic!

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  11. Terry says:

    Bloody fools. Yes you even have the photo's to prove.

    You want "150".....hell go to Goslings.

    Spending all that money, weight belts, even having to take along a six pack of air....bwhaaaaaaaaa..and a 'mask'? Good thing they are not full face masks....Dee Mureen Seaweed Pleece vud haiv bean der....detz rite......

    Ann yoo wundah vat Pat does all day.......

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  12. Chuck Wiesen says:

    Well Done!

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  13. Ganja mon says:

    i bet if they found two treasure chest of gold coins..Only one would get reported..

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  14. People's Poet says:

    Clafe got some people upset
    His jokes they did not get
    Said he's just having fun um
    And joined up with UMUM
    And no one can get a ticket

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  15. joonya says:

    Dang... dem byes found my reserve stash :(

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  16. Terry says:

    Lord....were stuck now with Barritt and Vesey and their dry humour.........Go back to BIAW. Jingus...it's quite obvious.

    Plus your not the "People's Poet".

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  17. People's Poet says:

    The Poet pissed off poor Terry
    While merely trying to make merry
    Its not Terry's name
    Or that he's insane
    I'd call him unstable - very :-)

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    • Terry says:

      Go back to BIAW.

      As for "Peoples Poet".......You gonna melt the chains or sell em on Front Street....

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      • Terry says:

        How much they paying you,,bwahaaaaaaa.................."People's Poet" ...Damn right....Peoples Propaganda....bwahaaa.....

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    • Terry says:

      There was a man named Billy Zool

      Everyone thought he was a fool

      He cood nut interact

      So he inwantaid de hinternat

      Smokinh is not good four you

      Buut with all your sh%t yah steal bloo..................

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  18. People's Poet says:

    Terry seems perfectly blunt
    In saying I'm some kind of runt
    To use present tense
    At least I make sense
    He's nothing more than a (sorry this word was deleted)

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  19. People's Poet says:

    Go back to BIAW Terry says
    As if I'd know what that is
    At least I use sentences
    No stupid pretenses
    If only he'd be on his way

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    • Nigel says:

      I seriously doubt if this wine will be found drinkable.
      I still have a bottle from an 1869 wreck which I brought up in 1990
      and I had to seal the cork with beeswax as the smell of the
      contents was horrible.
      I remember it as a nice dive though. Revisited that wreck last September;
      no more wine there.

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  20. Pablo says:

    How much are they worth$$$$$

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  21. Face Mask says:

    Very cool. Thanks for reporting on this Bernews

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