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Blue China
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The ROV ZEUS is launched from the Odyssey Explorer for descent to the seabed
One of two anchors discovered at the bow of the Blue China shipwreck site
The ceramic cargo discovered on the Blue China shipwreck helped date the site
A hand-painted floral tea bowl on the Blue China wreck site 1,200 feet deep
Oriental ginger jars recovered from the "Blue China's" ceramic cargo

"Blue China" Historical Overview

Observations made at the "Blue China" site suggest the wreck is the remains of a 19th Century wooden-hulled sailing vessel of typical size for coastal and small-load trans-Atlantic shipping. Coastal trading vessels, also known as coasters, are typically shallow-hulled ships used for picking up supplies and conducting trade between locations on the same island or continent. Their shallow hulls permit them to traverse through reefs and shallow waters where deeper drafted vessels cannot voyage.

The excavation produced no visible remains of machinery, or wire rigging which is indicative of a pre-Civil War time frame. The lack of cannon supports a merchant rather than a military vessel. The various types of cargo observed on the site and recovered for study indicate the "Blue China" wreck was likely an American merchant’s vessel conducting trade in the decade preceding the American Civil War, probably the 1850s-1860. The few Chinese-made porcelain wares that have been recovered were mixed with large quantities of ceramics produced in English potteries and exported to the American market. In addition, much of the glassware discovered was probably produced at American glass works in the mid-nineteenth century.

The evidence suggests the ship originated from a New England port city, the hub of the British ceramic import business at that time. Loaded with its cargo of trade goods, when the vessel sank off the Northern Florida coast, she may have been en route to coastal markets along the eastern seaboard and perhaps further south to customers in the Caribbean Islands.

The opportunity to recover and document the "Blue China" assemblage has provided a unique glimpse into a mid-nineteenth century cargo that would have been otherwise inaccessible except through limited documents. As new technology now provides access to the deepest wrecks once thought unreachable, exciting new discoveries will continue to add to our collective knowledge of Anglo-American ceramic history. The ultimate research value of the "Blue China" wreck ceramic cargo awaits its use by ceramic scholars and historical archaeologists who can continue to draw comparisons with other published ceramics dating from this period.

 

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