Five World War I-era ships were found in a southeast Texas river earlier this month, as ongoing drought conditions bring water levels to new lows, officials said.
A jet skier stumbled upon the sunken wooden vessels, each between 80 and 100 feet long, on Aug. 16 in the Neches River in Jasper County, according to the Ice House Museum in Silsbee, Texas.
Southeast Texas used to be a shipbuilding hub and the region was particularly active during World War I as America pressed to produce as many craft as possible to sustain the war effort.
But when the conflict known as “the war to end all wars” concluded in 1918, many of these newly built wooden ships had no particular use and were simply abandoned in places like the Neches River, the museum said.
“It blew my mind,” Ice House Museum curator Susan Kilcrease told NBC affiliate in Southeast Texas KBMT.
“We could tell almost immediately that it was wood … which put it at a certain time period of the early 20th century at a minimum.”
As historians and museum curators rush to learn more about these sunken ships, the plan for now is to leave them alone in the water with hopes that river visitors don’t disturb the wrecks or scavenge for souvenirs.
The museum pointed out that taking anything from a shipwreck is illegal under Texas law and urged curiosity seekers to look at and photograph the sunken vessels, but do nothing more.
The man who discovered the ships, Bill Milner, told KBMT he abided by the photos only rule.
“I wanted to document it, to make sure I could share it with somebody that has more expertise than me, because I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, but I could tell it was a very large vessel,” Milner said.