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Students Discover Shipwreck Treasures in the Tanks of 1860s Blockade Runner

Created on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 10:49
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 11:11

UAB-Study-Modern-GreeceStudents studying Civil War-era shipwreck artifacts from Modern Greece at the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Branch in Kure Beach include B. J. Howard (left) and Robin Croskery (center), shown working with Assistant State Archaeologist Nathan Henry. (Photo courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources)

KURE BEACH, NC – While their peers may be whiling away spring break on the sunny beaches of Key West or the Bahamas, 11 graduate students from East Carolina University (ECU) and two interns from UNC-Wilmington (UNC-W) are looking for treasure in murky tanks of crusty old objects. They are examining artifacts from the shipwreck of Modern Greece, a Civil War-era blockade runner that sank in June 1862.

Under the direction of Susanne Grieve, director of conservation for ECU’s Maritime History program, and Nathan Henry, an assistant state archaeologist for the Underwater Archaeology Branch (N.C.  Department of Cultural Resources), the students will examine some of the 11,500 artifacts that were recovered from the wreck, which was discovered lying just 300 yards off Fort Fisher in 25 feet of water in 1962. Some of the artifacts were conserved and now are exhibited at the N.C. Maritime Museum branches in Beaufort and Southport, the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, and other museums in and out of state. Thousands more remain to be researched.

The students will determine the type and condition of the artifacts and will record, catalog, photograph and evaluate future conservation needs. From water-filled tanks the students have retrieved cases of Enfield rifle muskets, antler-handled knives, hand cuffs, hoes, picks, and other 1860s farm and household goods.

Modern Greece represents an important period in history as an early casualty in the naval battlefield associated with Fort Fisher. Research on the Modern Greece, found 100 years after it sank, prompted development of the field of underwater archaeology and maritime artifact conservation in North Carolina and throughout the nation.

Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the Friends of Fort Fisher are co-sponsors of this project. Find Civil War Sesquicentennial programming at (

For more information on underwater archaeology or the Modern Greece shipwreck project, call (910) 458-9042.  The Underwater Archaeology Branch, State Historic Sites and State History Museums are within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at


Courtesy Beach Carolina

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