One of the puzzle pieces into the history of the discovered World Trade Center vessel includes a pewter button with the number 52, a regiment of the British Army. Whether this is from a captured British soldier or something a superstitious sailor found remains unanswered. Perhaps the British were the last to claim the vessel. As Riess said, the British held New York City throughout the war, and evacuated in 1783 after the treaty in Paris. The last humans on the sailboat left it to sit on the shores of New York harbor where other occupants endemic to saltwater marshes such as horseshoe crabs, sponges, oysters, and snails made the oak planks home. AKRF ecologists even found the bones from a (now extinct) passenger pigeon – though the bones could have been leftovers from an earlier meal.
As Riess adds, "The vessel has been a puzzle since the beginning." With its double rounded ends and shallow draft this vessel would have made for easy cargo transfers in bays, and beaches. "This was a shallow draft needed to get into shallow areas, typical to load and unload. The tide goes out and you throw a couple planks onto the mud or sand and unload," he said. He offers several options for theories as to the purpose of the sailboat: although it may have been a simple grain or cargo vessel making trades up and down the Hudson River and between the Caribbean, perhaps it also peacefully helped ferry British soldiers out of New York City after the war, or maybe more notoriously the ship had a run-in with the Marsh Pirates of New Jersey.
The stern of the vessel during excavation of the World Trade Center site in 2010. (Courtesy Douglas Mackey).
Young sapwood in a sample of oak, the thick outer section of the tree where sap flows is an indication that this tree was likely felled during the last ring shown on the sample, which cross-dates to 1773, though the outer layer of bark is missing and the rings are extremely tight and difficult to count making it also possible that the tree was cut down in 1774 or 1775. (Courtesy Neil Pederson, LDEO Tree Ring Lab)
The keel was squared-off during its construction, making the last ring in the shargbark hickory sample which cross-dates to 1724 likely a ring closer to the heartwood of the tree. (Courtesy Neil Pederson, LDEO Tree Ring Lab)
A micrograph of the hickory keel in cross-section showing an "inside view" of the ship wood. (Credit: Joel Jurgens, University of Minnesota)
Stern timbers taken from the World Trade Center site were cared for at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory until sent for analysis and storage at other labs. (Courtesy of the MAC Lab Facebook Page)
Carved Roman numerals in the stem of the vessel indicating draft marks. (Courtesy Carrie A. Fulton)
The reconstructed orlop or lower deck from the stern. The scale is in feet; the deck itself was just over 7 feet at its broadest. (Courtesy Carrie A. Fulton)
The Continental Sloop USS Providence by Alice B. Borsik. (Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Historical Center.)
Oil painting of by V. Zveg in 1973, depicting Continental Sailors and Marines landing on New Providence Island, Bahamas, on 3 March 1776. Their initial objective, Fort Montagu, is in the left distance. Close off shore are the small vessels used to transport the landing force to the vicinity of the beach. They are (from left to right): two captured sloops, schooner Wasp and sloop Providence. The other ships of the American squadron are visible in the distance. The operation was commanded by Commodore Esek Hopkins. (Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Historical Center.)
The 1969-launched single-masted shallow-draft sloop Clearwater, sailing up the Hudson River. The ship is the maiden vessel for the environmental organization: Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., based in Beacon, New York. (Wikimedia Commons)