On June 27, 1862, the British-owned steamer Modern Greece ran aground near Fort Fisher while attempting to run the federal blockade. The crash came after the vessel was pursued by U.S. Navy ships for three days. It was heavily laden with war materiel for the Confederacy and civilian goods. Although a portion of the cargo was salvaged by the crew, the vessel was intentionally sunk with most of its cargo still aboard.
The first salvage operations on the wreck site took place in July 1862 when Confederate officials removed several of the artillery pieces from the vessel for use at Fort Fisher. One hundred years later, in the early spring of 1962, a fierce storm removed the sand covering the wreck. A recovery of artifacts was mounted by the state, and that, it turn, spawned legislation in 1967 determining that North Carolina had a sovereign right to unclaimed shipwrecks off the coast.
The recovery of artifacts from the Modern Greece and the 1967 legislation also led to the creation of the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch and spurred conservation methods that underpin the science of underwater archaeology to this day.
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