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Wreckage of Historic Schooner Discovered Near Los Angeles

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Oct 24, 2012 09:09 AM EDT
Ship wreckage
CMAR diver Patrick Smith examines one of two massive mooring bitts discovered at the George E. Billings site. Mooring lines were secured from the mooring bitts to similar bitts on wharfs and docks called bollards. (Photo : Robert Schwemmer Sanctuaries/NOAA)

Archaeologists discovered the wrecked remains of a 109-year-old schooner near Los Angeles last year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Tuesday.

George E. Billings, a five-masted schooner which was built in 1903, was used in lumber trade during that period. Billings hauled lumber from Northwest to Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia and southern California during 1900s.

After serving in the lumber trade for decades, the ship vessel was converted into a sport-fishing barge. Once the ship was turned into a fish barge, the U.S. Coast Guard informed the owners to install bulkheads all over the ship or else pay a fine of $500.

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But, in 1941, the owners decided to scuttle the aging ship to an island reef and set it on fire and allowed it to sink, Robert Schwemmer, a NOAA maritime archaeologist, told OurAmazingPlanet.

Based on a photo which appeared in a newspaper, government archaeologists searched the ship for the last 20 years (the newspaper did not mention the exact location to where the ship was towed). They finally found the ship in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in February 2011.

"The discovery of the Billings is a result of excellent collaboration with the local community," Schwemmer said in a statement from NOAA.

"Now we can write the final chapter of not only the largest, but the last sailing vessel built by the Hall Bros. during their 30-year career of designing some of the finest ships sailing the Pacific," he said.

At least 150 historic ships have been reportedly lost in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and park waters. So far, 30 ships have been located and surveyed.

Details on Billings history and its discovery were presented at the eighth California Islands Symposium in Ventura, California.

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