MALTA BEND, Mo. — A group of excavators has found the 175-year-old sunken steamboat Malta, the namesake of the rural city of Malta Bend.

The Columbia Missourian reports that a white outline, 140 feet long and 22 feet wide, marks the area where the steamboat Malta is buried.

David Hawley, the leader of the steamboat recovery process, has been searching for steamboat wrecks up and down the Missouri River for more than 30 years. He has found 11 and dug up two.

The steamboat Malta sank in the Missouri River in 1841 on its way to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Hawley says that a sample of earth in February showed black and red wool and window glass. He added that more samples need to be taken to accurately determine what the steamboat holds.

"If we find beads or pipes, we're off to the races," he said.

He said he'd like to combine whatever artifacts the team finds with those at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, a collection that resulted from his discovery of the steamboat Arabia near Kansas City in 1987.

"It could be the museum of the great American steamboat," Hawley said.

Hawley said he compared maps of the Malta Bend area over time before he started looking himself. With a present day map, he drew a grid to track miles of walking with a metal detector.

"It's like mowing a lawn, you go back and forth," Hawley said. "When you get your lawn cut, you can see where you've been before."

Hawley said that is the Malta is excavated, it'll be in the winter because cold air preserves artifacts better than warm air.

But Hawley doesn't do all the work on his own. He has teamed up with archaeologists and construction companies since the beginning of the project.

"It's like the end of a movie where you have all the credits," Hawley said. "We're bringing in good people to the project."