The tropical storm last week helped to uncover the remains of a shipwreck buried under a dune along Crescent Beach. Mark O’Donoghue, a local resident, was walking along the beach on Saturday morning and saw the exposed timbers. Returning on Sunday, he saw more of the timbers uncovered by the waves and reached out to the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Director, Chuck Meide. The LAMP team began inspecting and documenting the shipwreck on Sunday.
The LAMP team believes that the ship was likely an American merchant ship carrying commodities like hardware or flour. Over 70% of all known historic shipwrecks lost in Florida are merchant vessels participating in the coastal trade moving goods from one coastal port to another along the Atlantic coast. Dating the ship is a bit tricky, however Meide believes it to date back to the 1800s. “Everything we’ve seen on it so far fits that hypothesis; wooden planking, wood timbers, iron fasteners. They look quite similar to other ships from the 1800s that we have seen.”
As the research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, LAMP has helped to identify several shipwrecks with the most recent coming ashore in March 2018 on Ponte Vedra Beach. Although the current shipwreck will not be recovered, the LAMP team will continue their survey work and take samples of the timbers and iron work. Flagler College students will also be working with LAMP to properly document and record the shipwreck, gaining field experience in archaeology. “Florida’s maritime past is America’s story as the nation’s oldest port dating back to the Spanish landing in 1565. The Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program is committed to saving our maritime history and passing these stories on to our future generations,” says Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the Museum.
To learn more about maritime archaeology and the maritime history of St. Augustine, visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s Wrecked! exhibit featuring artifacts from the American Revolution. Located on the first floor and in the basement of the Keeper’s House, this exhibit tells the story of British Loyalists fleeing American forces as they approached Charleston. Florida was a British colony at the time and St. Augustine provided a haven for many escaping the war.
For more information on the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum or the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, please visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org. The non-profit Museum is open every day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM with special extended hours during the holiday season.