S locals were pulling out to evacuate for Hurricane Florence last September, the treasure salvage vessel Blue Water Rose
was 40 miles off the North Carolina coast over the wreck of the passenger steamer Pulaski lost for nearly 180 years.
Once the waves grew, the Blue Water Rose had to come in.
“The guys watch the weather, we’re 40 miles out. We knew it was kicking,” Beth Webb says from her office in
Jacksonville, Florida. She and her husband, Keith Webb, own Blue Water Ventures and the Blue Water Rose.
WBM FILE PHOTO
The boat returned briefly to the Bridge Tender Marina where the boat ties up when not out on the site, but couldn’t stay there. “We
knew our area was going to be safe. We brought the boat back to Florida the day before the storm.”
In May and late June, they returned in two quick trips to assess storm-related changes to the site and make a few dives. While over
the wreck, they brought up another gold pocket watch, a copper penny, plates and serving platters and a large quantity of silverware.
Storms are known to cover or uncover wrecks.
“Hurricane Florence shifted the bottom — things are not as they were when the crew left there last year,” Beth Webb says.
The wreck of the Pulaski is significant because it contains early American coins. A survey engineer with
Endurance Exploration Group, Ray “J.R.” Darville Jr., employed side-scan sonar to locate the Pulaski 120 feet
below the surface in May 2017. Since then, Blue Water Ventures, Endurance Exploration Group and the Blue
Water Rose crew have recovered half dollars and half eagles from the 1830s as well as several earlier issues.
“There were not a lot of coins minted in that period,” Keith Webb says. “That’s why this shipwreck is so
special. We’re going to find a percentage that are very rare. A certain $5 piece could be worth $170,000.”
Proving that the coins and artifacts recovered were from the Pulaski is huge. Provenance including
a little brass luggage tag with the inscription “SB Pulaski” and a candlestick inscribed SB (Steam Boat)
Pulaski provided evidence that the crew had found the remains of the lost ship.
They also have found bent pieces of copper. “You can tell something violent happened, the pieces are
bent like there was an explosion,” says Beth Webb.
The passenger vessel had departed from Savannah, Georgia, on July 13, 1838, with a complement of
nearly 200, including passengers and crew, bound for Baltimore, Maryland, after a stop in Charleston,
South Carolina. Onboard were some of the rich and famous of the day, including Congressman William
B. Rochester of New York and six members of the Lamar family, then among the wealthiest in
the Southeast. The ship went down off the North Carolina coast a little after 11 p.m., when one
of the boilers exploded. Sinking within 45 minutes, 128 people including the captain were lost.
Just 59 survived.
Using huge blowers attached to the stern of the Blue Water Rose, then employing metal
detectors to search for artifacts, crew members discovered coins and artifacts buried two to
three feet deep under layers of sand and shell. Valuables and artifacts uncovered included
Left: The most recent gold pocket watch that was found of the wreck this year and a
pretty copper penny. Top: The Blue Water Rose heads through Masonboro Inlet on the
way to the wreck site in June 2018.
WBM august 2019