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Mystery Boat: Twilight

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Old 09-28-2013, 03:16 PM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 2
Default Mystery Boat: Twilight

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I went to see the Bertrand exhibit at the DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge in western Iowa. There was a model of the boat near the entrance, and then case after case of the cargo that had been recovered from the hull. The only piece of actual boat equipment that I remember placing my hands on was some sort of mud filtering device for the boilers. Bertrand had been well salvaged shortly after sinking, and most of its hardware was removed.

After the museum and a nature trail, I got to see the wreck site. After the excavation was completed in 1969, the hole in the river bank remained. As soon as the pumps shut down, it turned into a tiny lake.

For some reason, a series of floating buoys had been anchored to the wreck to show you the outline of the hull. I think the idea was so you could tell it's dimensions.

This is what made the boat so fascinating to me. It was right there, but I couldn't really see it or touch it. Nothing but a ghostly outline in the bright sunlight. The boat only existed in my imagination.

I think that was what hooked me on the idea of steamboats at a young age. They were just as extinct as dinosaurs. You could see pieces, but you'd never see a real one working as it had long ago.

I got a little handbook from the museum that contained a reproduction of Hiram Chittenden's famous map of the Missouri river wreck sites. I keep hearing different estimates, but somewhere between 200 and 400 boats are still under the mud somewhere. It was like having a treasure map to my little mind.

We lived in Norfolk Nebraska, and spent lots of time in the river towns like Yankton and Sioux city, and camped out at the Lewis and Clark lake area. Every time I came near the Missouri, I was looking into the water for wreckage.

As I grew, my interests wandered to other things. I barely noticed when the Arabia was excavated, with much more cargo and hardware intact. It's only been recently that I've started to appreciate steamboats with the mind of an adult. I've read Louis C. Hunter's masterwork history piece "Steamboats on the Western Rivers," and the biographies of two famous Missouri captains Joseph LaBarge and Grant Marsh.

I started just googling around the internet, looking for news of any new wreck discoveries. I read about the resurfacing of the skeletal remains of the Montana and North Alabama when the waters of the Missouri got low. I assumed there had not been any more big excavations of steamboats in farmer's fields.

Imagine my surprise at stumbling across this little site: The Steamboat Twilight Excavation

WARNING: This site appears to have become infected. My antivirus program tells me that it neutralizes a "Black Hole Exploit" code every time I visit the page.

The page looks like it hasn't been updated since 2009. According to the site, a third buried Missouri river wreck has been excavated in 2001. And this time, some of the deck cargo was still there: The Southeast Missourian - Google News Archive Search

If you click on the tab labeled "Museum" you will find out that there is no museum, because they don't have the money to build one. (Don't Have The Money seems to be a common steamboat theme, doesn't it?)

According to the Twilight site, they excavated the WHOLE DARN THING. They make it sound like they removed the entire hull.

But there's no museum.

So where is the steamboat Twilight?

It's right there, but I can't see or touch it....
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