Part of a storm protection project in Brick is on hold following the discovery of a shipwreck that could date back more than 160 years.

Shipwreck (LailaRberg, ThinkStock)

The vessel was uncovered by workers who were in the process of erecting a steel wall to protect the area and residents from future storms. The wreckage broke two machine heads before the crew members realized what they were dealing with.

Brick Mayor John Ducey said the state and historians were called in to take a closer look. Preliminary theories estimate the ship met its demise in the 1850s.

"They have some ideas of what it may be, but obviously it's going to be a long process before they determine exactly what it is," Ducey said. "It's definitely a ship."

The wreck was found more than 20 feet below the sand near 7th Avenue in Brick's Normandy Beach section.

Steel sheets were being drilled into the ground as part of a 3.5-mile protection project for Brick and Mantoloking.

"The project for the steel wall in that particular area is on hold, but they're continuing to put up the wall in other areas," Ducey said, noting the original completion date of Nov. 15 will not be met.

Ducey believes the wreck will eventually end up in a local museum.