The site’s compact and discreet stratigraphy accounts for its astonishing degree of preservation. The modern surface of the sandbar consists of loose coarse sand and fine silt, which migrates along the bottom depending on seasonal tides and occasional storms. The top of the ballast mound protrudes above this surface, serving as a substratum for oyster growth and a haven for stone crabs and fish. Below the sand is a second stratum, consisting of a dense matrix of oyster, clam, and mussel shells bound in compacted silt. This layer is the result of gradual accumulation of generations of marine organisms that thrived and died on the artificial reef created by the remains of the ship. The dense stratum of shell has effectively capped the upper portion of the site, protecting it over the years from erosion by waves and currents. Below the shell cap is a complex layer of loose silt and shell which represents the original deposition of marine sediments that entered the hull as it wrecked and disintegrated. Artifacts and other remains associated with the wrecking and subsequent slow collapse of the ship are found within this layer, while those that accumulated in the bottom of the vessel during its sailing career are trapped in a dense but soft organic deposit between the ship’s frames and in its bilge. This deposit has produced a surprising array of floral and faunal remains, as well as other organic debris. Below the ship’s hull are sediments of clean, gray sand with occasional remnants of ancient shells and worms, that represent the original sand bar upon which the ship came to rest.