Recovery of the Modern Greece 100 Years After Its Sinking

Recovering artifacts from the Modern Greece in the 1960s

On March 15, 1962, archaeologists began diving on the wreck of the blockade runner Modern Greece. The wreck, which had been hidden on the sea floor for nearly 100 years, was discovered after a storm uncovered it. Divers found much of the vessel and its cargo intact. Historians and archaeologists with the state of North Carolina and U.S. Navy teamed up to recover more than 11,500 artifacts from the site.

The British-owned steamer Modern Greece ran aground near Fort Fisher while attempting to run the federal blockade in June 1862. 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.

Work on the site had a profound effect on the field of underwater archaeology. When private companies started trying to salvage artifacts, the state stepped in, asserting North Carolina’s sovereign right to unclaimed shipwrecks. Research on the Modern Greece also led the state to establish one of the nation’s first underwater archaeology programs.

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