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stepping stones of maritime history


Off the northwestern tip of Salt Cay lies a wooden wreck that is as of yet unidentified. It could be the remains of the brig Gustavus, which sank in this area in 1855. She planned to visit Grand Turk on January 8 of that year to collect salt. During bad weather, Gustavus broke adrift during a heavy gale and drifted to the north coast of Salt Cay where she crashed into the shallow reef and sank.



In 2019, archaeologists Ruud Stelten (The Shipwreck Survey) and Joost Morsink (SEARCH, Inc.) conducted a survey of the wreck site. The site, located at a depth of 6 meters, was found to be partially buried, but the exposed wooden part measured 10.2 meters in length. The wood was found to be in a relatively good state of preservation, with little damage done by shipworms. This suggests that the site has been covered by sand for a long time. Part of the site is covered in fishing nets. While most of the wooden structure is fairly intact, on the northern end of the site, several pieces of fragmented wood were visible, further highlighting the fragile nature of the wreck site. No artifacts were encountered. Several measurements were taken and a 3D photogrammetric model was created of the site. This model will serve as a three-dimensional baseline against which future site formation processes can be monitored.

Ruud Stelten documenting the remains of the wreck. Photo by © Joost Morsink.

Aerial view of Salt Cay's northern reef. The wreck is the elongated narrow dark spot in the middle of the foreground.

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