SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — In the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, camera-laden undersea robots are exploring several mysterious shipwrecks from the early 1800s. A team of marine archaeologists guides the robots remotely to find remnants from the past. This expedition is partially sponsored by scientists at Texas State University.
Their most exciting find thus far came on April 17, when one archaeologist noticed a circular object peeking out of the sediment on a merchant ship. They zoomed in and found the object was a chronometer—an ancient timepiece. The chronometer’s hands appeared to point to 6:30.
This type of clock could keep time accurately on a rolling ship. Its design was perfected by a British carpenter in 1761, but they were so expensive that the British Royal Navy’s ships wouldn’t get them until 1825. That makes the discovery all the more surprising.
“For this to appear on a merchant ship in the Gulf of Mexico at this early date is extraordinary,” said Jack Irion, a regional historic preservation officer with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maritime heritage director James Delgado says scientists will study the chronometer extensively to find out more.
“This chronometer is an object worthy of scientific recovery, preservation treatment to reverse the corrosive effects of two centuries in the sea, detailed study and eventually, display in a museum,” said Delgado.
The expedition moved Thursday to another site via their ship, the Okeanos Explorer. If you want to be an explorer as well, you can watch the expedition live here through the end of April.