Century-old shipwreck being torn apart by visitors; researchers asking them to stop
BATON ROUGE - Two weeks low water levels revealed a century-old shipwreck along the Mississippi River and thousands of curious sightseers have made their way through the weeds and down the levee to see the S.S. Brookhill.
Reports of visitors taking pieces from the shipwreck as souvenirs has prompted the state department of archaeology to put a sign up, asking those visitors to "Take only photos, [and] leave only footprints."
“The ship lies on state grounds. The bottom of the river, by law, belongs to the state and so any wrecks on it also belong to the state. So, it is state property," State Archaeologist Dr. Charles "Chip" McGimsey said.
On Oct. 31, McGimsey said two of the four large pieces of the S.S. Brookhill that were stolen will be returned to the ship. The archaeologist said the man who took the parts was more than happy to turn them in, but unfortunately does not know where the other missing pieces are.
Although McGimsey says his department is studying the ship, they have decided not to preserve it because it would be too expensive and time-consuming.
“You would literally have to take her apart board-by-board and then get it conserved. Then, see if you could find a museum that had a 100-foot-long space to display her," McGimsey said.
Why is the state department concerned about visitors taking away mementos from the S.S. Brookhill if they have no plans to preserve it? McGimsey explained that it's state property and they want it left the way it is.
“As we say on the sign, if everyone came and started taking a piece, by now there would be nothing left. There have been thousands of people who have come down here to look at the wreck, and quite frankly there will be thousands more who come down because the crowd has not diminished at all in two-and-a-half weeks.”
When the water levels go back up, the ship will once again be submerged. McGimsey says it usually sits about six feet underwater.
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