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MARKING HISTORY: Blockade runner Modern Greece


FORT FISHER, NC (WWAY) -- The local history throughout the Civil War is well documented, but a certain, less talked about piece of the past is now being showcased through a new highway marker.

At Fort Fisher, there's an abundance of history to tour whenever we'd like on land, but under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean there's another type of history that you don't see.

It was a ship on a mission: Help the Confederacy by delivering desperately-needed supplies. The Modern Greece was a British owned blockade runner, that was none too successful.

On June 27, 1862, the vessel headed for Fort Fisher, but was quickly spotted by federal forces and was bombarded by fire. To make sure the supplies wouldn't fall into Union hands, Fort Fisher opened fire to sink the ship to the ocean floor, where it would lie untouched for another 100 years.

In 1962, Navy divers took to the sea and started to recover artifacts by the thousands. That idea - to excavate important shipwrecks just off the coast - was the start of a new science for North Carolina.

"It was the site that created underwater archaeology in North Carolina when it was first examined and excavated 50 years ago," NC Underwater Archaeology Branch Director Billy Ray Morris said.

Now, the Underwater Archaeology Branch operates out of Fort Fisher and restores artifacts like these from the Modern Greece.

"Once they come up off the bottom, if they don't get put in the hands of a professional conservator in a laboratory such as we have here, they'll go away, they'll fall to pieces. They can take years and years," Morris said.

To recognize the importance of this wreck, not just to history, but to the establishment of this science, a new highway marker was dedicated at a ceremony at the fort Saturday. This way, new generations will come to know that there's plenty of history to be found under the sea.

So far 11,000 artifacts have been recovered from the Modern Greece through the program.

The new highway marker will be installed this week on S. Fort Fisher Blvd. in Kure Beach.

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