The mighty Missouri River played a nasty April Fool’s Day trick in 1865, snagging the Steamboat Bertrand and sending it and at least 250 tons of cargo to a muddy grave. Laden with merchandise for the Montana gold fields, the Bertrand became an underwater time capsule filled with unused goods. A little more than a century later, two entrepreneurs had the last laugh: Sam Corbino and Jesse Pursell located the wreckage and with archeologists from the National Park Service and what is now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service excavated it. Miraculously, more than 200,000 objects survived. Food containers, shipping crates, tools, hardware, armaments, clothing, and more give a glimps of the western frontier at the end of the Civil War. Conservation work on the artifacts continues; the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center is engaged in treatment of metal objects retrieved from the boat.
See photographs and learn more about this exacting process at www.nebraskahistory.org/conserve/treasures/see-whats-done/Bertrand-Metals.pdf.
Thousands of artifacts and the fascinating story of the Bertrand and its rediscovery are on exhibit at the DeSoto Bend National Widllife Refuge, just across the river from Blair, Nebraska. For more info www.fws.gov/midwest/desoto/ You’ll find great history and great natural beauty–and that’s no joke!