Maryland lab to conserve World Trade Center ship remains

A conservation team from Maryland's archaeology lab is in Manhattan this week, working to recover the remains of a wooden sailing ship found buried at the World Trade Center site.

The ship's fragile timbers are being extracted from the muck, wrapped, labeled and packed for shipment next week to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, part of the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard, where they will be treated so they may eventually be reassembled.

The lab was built, in part, to conserve and store artifacts recovered from Maryland waters.

But over the years, the "MAC" lab has been enlisted to help with many far-flung projects, including conservation of pieces of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, found off the North Carolina coast in 1996, and a dugout canoe found in New Jersey that the lab carbon dated to A.D. 200.

"Our conservators have a great deal of experience with recovering and conserving waterlogged timbers, such as those found at the World Trade Center," said Nichole Doub, the MAC's head conservator, in a statement.

But the lab's director, Patricia Samford, said this was the largest shipwreck project the lab has taken on. The process will entail up to a year of soaking in antifreeze, and then freeze-drying to drive out the remaining water and preserve the wood, she said.

The New York ship was found July 13, during excavation work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The dig will make way for construction of a new vehicle security center and tour bus parking facility. Workers removing the black ooze 20 to 30 feet below street level struck the regularly spaced and contoured timbers.

Archaeologists on the project identified them as those of a ship dating to the late 18th or early 19th century, which was likely placed there as landfill. They then hired the MAC lab to remove and conserve the wood.

An earlier version misspelled the name of the director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Dr. Patricia Samford. The Sun regrets the error.

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