For more than 100 years, a 315-foot long ship sat underwater six miles off the coast of Key Largo in Florida. Nicknamed "Mike's Wreck" but unidentified and largely neglected, the wreckage served as a playground for fish and divers, but little else.
Now, thanks to work by the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) and NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the mysterious tangle of steel has been identified.
According to a NOAA press release, the wreckage is believed to be that of the Hannah M. Bell, a British steel-hulled ship built in 1893 that sank in 1911. Prior to its untimely end, the ship plied waters between ports in Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and both the East and Gulf Coasts in the U.S., typically transporting raw materials such as cotton, sugar and coal.
"Similar to the way detectives use forensic information to solve a crime, we compared the dimensions and construction characteristics of the shipwreck known locally as 'Mike's Wreck' with historic shipping records in order to solve this mystery," said Matthew Lawrence, a maritime archaeologist at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the project's principal investigator, in a release.
"Measurements of the shipwreck and the records for Hannah M. Bell were virtually identical, as were the reported sinking location and the actual location of the wreck," he added.
The vessel is one of many that have run aground on Florida's shallow reefs. Wreckage from the USS Arkansas and the City of Washington ships also lie nearby. Fortunately, as the Maritime Executive reports, no lives were lost when the Hannah M. Bell sank.
According to WZVN, the Hannah M. Bell is believed to have helped sink yet another ship, the Quoque, when that steamer ran directly into the submerged wreckage in 1920.