That's the fascinating headline to this article at Atlas Obscura.
Hawley and his intrepid team have quite the incredible passion: discovering and excavating steamboats from the 19th century that may have sunk in the Missouri, but now lie beneath fields of farmers' midwestern corn. “Ours is a tale of treasures lost,” says Hawley. “A journey to locate sunken steamboats mystery cargo that vanished long ago.”
In 1988, Hawley and his crew uncovered the steamboat Great White Arabia, which sank in 1856 a few miles west of Kansas City. The discovery yielded an incredible collection of well-preserved, pre-Civil War artifacts. Hawley, along with his father, brother and two friends, unearthed over 200 tons of items, the equivalent of 10 container trucks. Many of these artifacts, from shoes to champagne bottles, are on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City. Its tagline is “200 tons of treasure.”
While most rescued sunken treasure is heavily water damaged and covered in rust and barnacles, the cargo of the Arabia was in relatively pristine condition, about as immaculately preserved as the day she sank 160 years ago.
Now Hawley and his team are excavating another steamboat, again buried not underneath the waters of the Missouri, but in a field a few miles southwest.
The first mystery is, of course, how a boat that sank mid-river ends up buried in a field. The answer lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the latter half of the 19th century, the Corps of Engineers undertook projects to forcibly alter the shape of the Missouri River. The plan was to bring the banks closer together, and by narrowing the width of the river, speed up the current, making boat passage much faster.
One such place was near Parkville, a few miles north east of Kansas City. It was here in 1856 that the Arabia sank after hitting a snag of a sycamore tree, sinking in minutes. As the course of the river was altered decades later, the steamboat became preserved not under the muddy waters of the Missouri, but in a corn field.
There's more at the link.
Here's a video report on the ship and its rediscovery.
I find the whole story absolutely fascinating. The discovery dates back to 1988, and the museum to 1991, but I'd never heard of it until I read this article. Next time I pass through Kansas City, I'll have to make a point of visiting it.