Drought-Stricken Mississippi River Reveals Wreckage of 19th-Century Trading Ship

by Taylor Cunningham
No release required

The ongoing drought in the South has unearthed a mystery that had been lying at the bottom of the Mississippi River for over 100 years.

With water levels reaching historic lows, people have watched portions of the river bed nearly dry up. And Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident Patrick Ford has been taking advantage of that by hunting for artifacts that were once lost to the current.

As Ford told CNN affiliate WBRZ, he has been exploring the Mississippi River for weeks. And he recently made an incredible discovery when he stumbled upon a 19th-century ship.

“This past Sunday I was out here looking and realized the rest of the shore had washed away, and there was an entire ship there,” he shared. “I immediately texted friends and was like, ‘Holy moly, I think I found a ship, a sunken ship!’”

News quickly reached Chip McGimsey, a Mississippi state archaeologist. And he shared that the wreckage was actually discovered 30 years ago. But it was too submerged to properly study.

The Wreckage at the Bottom of the Mississippi River Belongs to a Ferry Built in 1896

Specialists believe that it is a ship called the Brookhill, and it was built in 1896 in Indiana. He further detailed that the Brookhill had a sister called the Istrouma, which served as a day ferry across the Mississippi River. And the Brookhill shuttled people at night.

On September 29, 1915, a bad storm rolled through and sank both of the ships. The Brookhill went down after logs crashed into it, and it was only 100 feet from the ferry landing.

” [In 1992] they did some limited investigations and could look at very small pieces – basically sort of one or two foot wide parts of it – to try to get an understanding of how it was constructed and how old it was,” McGimsey said. “At that time, it was not nearly as exposed as it is now. It was still largely buried in mud and they had to do a lot of digging to even see little pieces of it.”

With the current water levels, 90% of Brookhill’s hull is completely exposed. And archeologists plan on taking advantage of that while they can. In the upcoming days, they will study the construction and create renderings of how they believe it was built. The research will be a rare treat.

“For the most part, there are not good documents on boat building,” he added, “especially once you get back into the area of wooden ships. They have a lot of individuality in these boats, and there are so few of them remaining. This is a rare example of one from around 1900.”

The Drought Isn’t Over Yet

Meteorologists predict that drought conditions will last until at least Oct 23rd. So Ford is asking people to get out there and take advantage of the situation while they can.

“Explore your surroundings,” he added. “Get to know where you live, what’s around beyond just what’s in front of you. Take a walk, see what’s out there.”