Modeling the Red River Wreck - Heroine (1832)


The Red River Wreck is the nearly complete hull of the Heroine, a western river steamboat built in 1832 and wrecked in 1838 between Jonesborough, Texas and Fort Towson, Indian Territory. It is the oldest archaeologically recorded vessel of its type and Oklahoma’s only documented shipwreck. The shipwreck was buried for nearly 150 years in the bank of the constantly shifting Red River until exposed by a flood in 1990. The wreck was brought to the attention of Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) staff in 1999 and became a joint OHS, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and Texas A&M University project in 2002.

The Heroine is 140 feet (42.7 m) in length and 24 feet (7.3 m) in breadth, too large to recover and display. In order to bring the wreck to the public, the OHS contracted with the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation for model builder Glenn Grieco to construct scale models of the vessel. Based on archaeological discoveries that are supplemented by historical research, these models allow the public to appreciate the construction and propulsion of the ship. The Heroine models are displayed at the new Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, surrounded by artifacts and displays that tell the story of Heroine and Red River navigation.

The modeling process began with recording the shipwreck. Based on the archaeological drawings, Grieco reconstructed the hull and fabricated the metal fittings using computer aided design software and a programmable mill. Machinery elements missing from the wreck were reconstructed from historical records and the mounting hardware and timbers found on the hull. Recording, computer reconstruction, fabricating the parts and assembling the model took approximately one year.

 

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