North Dakota drought exposes 130-year-old shipwreck

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The Abner O’Neal sank while traveling down the Missouri River in 1892. Nearly 130 years later, the shipwreck still sits on the bottom of the North Dakota portion of the river and recently became visible to visitors, according to CBS Bismarck affiliate KXMB-TV.

North Dakota is currently experiencing a statewide drought, and, as a result, the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River has been releasing less water. Archaeologists said receding water levels revealed the ship’s remains, KXMB-TV reported.

Built back in 1884, the steamship carried grain between Washburn and Bismarck-Mandan. Eight years later, the Abner O’Neal was transporting 9,000 bushels of buckwheat when it struck a snag or a rock and began to sink between Washburn and Mandan. The cargo on board and the boat itself were a total loss, according to the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s website.

The ship, which has largely remained intact since it sank, was also seen during the 2011 Missouri River flood.

Local resident Nyk Edinger went to see the shipwreck himself. He said he appreciates the little piece of history.

“A lot of our history has been torn down because weather is extreme, so to have something as old as the Abner O’Neal and still being able to see the actual iron and wood that went into that ship with our own eyes is an incredible experience,” he told KXMB-TV. “Something as historic as that, something as old as that, something that came long before me and will be here long after I’m gone, was an important thing for me.”

Officials are asking the public not to disturb the wreckage.

“It is public property and a protected historic site so when visiting it, it is important to only take pictures and be respectful,” said Andrew Clark, the state’s chief archeologist.

Abner O'Neal shipwreck in the Missouri River in North Dakota. / Credit: State Historical Society of North DakotaAbner O'Neal shipwreck in the Missouri River in North Dakota. / Credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota

Abner O’Neal shipwreck in the Missouri River in North Dakota. / Credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota

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