The wreckage of a Civil War-era ship that carried a group of African-American slaves to freedom 152 years ago has been located, US marine archaeologists believe.
Planter, a storied side-wheel steamship that sank in 1876, is thought to be buried beneath the waters off Cape Romain on the South Carolina coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
Magnetometer surveys found a large amount of iron signalling a sunken ship about half a mile offshore and buried under 10 to 15 feet of sand and water.
Tuesday marked the anniversary of its famous voyage on 13 May, 1862, when Robert Smalls, a slave who worked as a deckhand on the Planter during the Civil War, disguised himself as the ship's captain.
With his wife, children and other African-American slave families onboard, Smalls sailed the ship past Confederate sentries in Charleston Harbour and out to the Union blockade at sea.
He was lauded as a hero and went on to enjoy a notable career in the Union navy as a freeman; he later served five terms as a congressman for South Carolina.
In pictures: 12 amazing archaeological discoveries
In pictures: 12 amazing archaeological discoveries
1/12 Ancient forest, discovered in February 2014
Ancient forest revealed by storms. The recent huge storms and gale force winds that have battered the coast of West Wales have stripped away much of the sand from stretches of the beach between Borth and Ynyslas. The disappearing sands have revealed ancients forests, with the remains of oak trees dating back to the Bronze Age, 6,000 years ago. The ancient remains are said by some to be the origins of the legend of ‚Cantre‚r Gwealod‚ , a mythical kingdom now submerged under the waters pif Cardigan Bay
2/12 Medieval royal palaces, discovered in November 2014
Archaeologists in southern England have discovered what may be one of the largest medieval royal palaces ever found – buried under the ground inside a vast prehistoric fortress at Old Sarum. The probable 12th century palace was discovered by archaeologists, using geophysical ground-penetrating ‘x-ray’ technology to map a long-vanished medieval city which has lain under grass on the site for more than 700 years
3/12 The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered ca. 1950
The Dead Sea Scrolls are almost 1,000 biblical manuscripts discovered in the decade after the Second World War in what is now the West Bank. The texts, mostly written on parchment but also on papyrus and bronze, are the earliest surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents known to be in existence, dating over a 700-year period around the birth of Jesus. The ancient Jewish sect the Essenes is supposed to have authored the scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, although no conclusive proof has been found to this effect
4/12 Diamond, discovered in March 2014
This rare diamond that survived a trip from deep within the Earth's interior confirmed that there is an ocean’s worth of water beneath the planet’s crust
5/12 Whale skeletons, discovered in February 2014
Chilean and Smithsonian paleontologists study several fossil whale skeletons at Cerro Ballena, next to the Pan-American Highway in the Atacama Region of Chile
6/12 Complete mammoth skeleton, discovered in November 2012
The first complete mammoth skeleton to be found in France for more than a century was uncovered in a gravel pit on the banks of the Marne, 30 miles north-east of Paris. Picture shows experts at work making a silicon cast of the mammoth's tusk
7/12 Million-year-old human footprints, discovered in February 2014
Photograph of the footprint hollows in situ on the beach as Happisburgh, Norfolk
8/12 Terracotta warrior, discovered in June 2010
Chinese archaeologists unearthed around 120 more clay figures in June 2010 excavations at the terracotta army site that surrounds the tomb of the nation's first emperor in the northwestern Shaanxi Province
© Jason Lee / Reuters
9/12 Neolithic 'lost avenue' - prehistoric stone circle, discovered in September 1999
The discovery of a Neolithic 'lost avenue' was described as one of the most important finds of the last century. Since the 1700s, archeologists and historians have argued over the existence of the huge sarsen stones, which were unearthed at the site of the world's biggest prehistoric stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire
10/12 Byzantine mosaic, discovered in February 2007
Plans for a walkway at the centre of the furious dispute over Jerusalem's holiest site were delayed by the discovery of a Byzantine mosaic
11/12 Ancient gold, discovered in March 2014
Gold fitting for a dagger sheath (around 1900 BC.) found near Stonehenge
12/12 Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799
The Rosetta Stone is a basalt slab inscribed with a decree of pharaoh Ptolemy Epiphanes (205-180 BC) in three languages, Greek, Hieroglyphic and Demotic script. Discovered near Rosetta in Egypt
Bruce Terrell, senior archaeologist and maritime historian with NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said: “This story has had a lot of resonance, particularly in the Lowcountry communities, places where people still know Robert Smalls' story.”
The search for the Planter goes back to 2010, after research into historical documents showed that the ship grounded in a storm in 1876 and sprang a bow plank while trying to salvage another grounded vessel.
The ship had offloaded its cotton near Georgetown, South Carolina, but passengers and crew were rescued from it by the crew of the nearby Cape Romain lighthouse, Terrell said.
Mr Terrell said the decision as to whether the Planter should be excavated is “up in the air”, despite interest from museums. He said that because it is buried, recovery would be expensive and excavation could disturb sensitive loggerhead sea turtle nesting grounds in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
On Tuesday a plaque identifying ”the last resting place of Robert Smalls' Planter” was dedicated to the refuge's education centre.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content