They Found These Inside a 150-Year-Old Sunken Steamboat… And They're Still Edible!

1800s | May 27, 2016

Loaded with around 200 tons of supplies for 16 towns, the Steamboat Arabia left Kansas up the Missouri River in 1856 on one of her routine trips... and what’s going to be her last.


The steamboat hit a fallen walnut tree lying directly on its path. The impact came without a warning, piercing the thick hull of the boat. Water quickly rushed in through the gaping hole and within minutes the Arabia sank to the bottom of the Missouri River.

Miraculously, everyone on board was able to swam to safety, expect for one mule, tied to the deck.

Because of the river’s heavy mud and silt, the steambot disappered entirely after a few days. And for 132 years, the boat lay under the river, until it was finally discovered in the late 1980s.

Over time the Missouri River shifted about half a mile to the East, so when the Arabia was discovered, it was buried 45 feet under the ground of a Kansas farm. The discovery effort was led by a Kansas, Bob Hawley. Hawley was inspired by the legend of the Arabia that has been passed down for generations.

Using old maps and a proton magnetometer, Hawley and his team figured out the probable location of the sunken steamer. The farmers who owned the land where the boat was burried under, gave Hawley’s team permission to excavate on the condition that it be completed before the spring planting.

Excavation began.

Two weeks later, the first part of the Steamboat Arabia appeared - the weathered timbers of her left paddlewheel. A small black rubber shoe was also found lying on the muddy deck.

On November 26, 1988, the entire Steamboat Arabia was finally dug up, along with its 200-ton treasures. Within a few days, a wooden crate filled with elegant century-old china was unearthed. The straws used to pack the wares were still visible, thanks to the river mud being such an effective natural preserver.

Since the buried artifacts weren’t exposed to air, thousands of them were recovered still intact, including jars of preserved foods.

One of the excavators ate some of the preserved pickles and found it to be still perfectly fresh.

Here are some more of the unearthed treasures.





Steamboat Arabia 17





Steamboat Arabia 22




These artifacts are now displayed in a little Museum in the city of Kansas called the Arabia Steamboat Museum. The skeleton remains of the boat’s sole fatality, the mule, is also displayed in the museum.

H/T Arabia Steamboat Museum

Tags: sunken Arabia Steamboat unearthed

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