Workers at the World Trade Center site are excavating a 32-foot-long ship hull that apparently was used in the 18th century as part of the fill that extended lower Manhattan into the Hudson River.
It's hoped the artifact can be retrieved by the end of the day on Thursday, said archaeologist Molly McDonald. A boat specialist was going to the site to take a look at it.
McDonald said she wanted to at least salvage some timbers; it was unclear if any large portions could be lifted intact.
"We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," she said, but construction equipment could be used later in the process.
McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo were at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the discovery was made Tuesday morning.
"We noticed curved timbers that a back hoe brought up," McDonald said Wednesday. "We quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days."
The two archeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the site. They called the find significant but said more study was needed to determine the age of the ship.
"We're going to send timber samples to a laboratory to do dendrochronology that will help us to get a sense of when the boat was constructed," said McDonald. Dendrochronology is the science that uses tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.
A 100-pound anchor was found a few yards from the ship hull on Wednesday, but they're not sure if it belongs to the ship. It's 3 to 4 feet across, McDonald said.
The archaeologists are racing to record and analyze the vessel before the delicate wood, now exposed to air, begins to deteriorate.
"I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo said.
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