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St. Augustine Archaeologists Find Colonial Shipwreck

7:07 PM, Jul 5, 2010   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Just off the coast of northeast Florida, there are about 250 known shipwrecks.

Now, there's one more.

This one has archaeologist Chuck Meide excited. "This is the golden oldie we've been looking for," he said.

That's because "it may prove to be the oldest shipwreck found in northeast Florida waters," Meide said.

He believes the ship dates to the 1700s.

Meide is the director of LAMP, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program under the umbrella of the First Light Maritime Society. Meide and the LAMP team found the colonial-era ship.

It's not been easy. This shipwreck is all under the sand.

"This is the first shipwreck we've ever found off St. Augustine that is completely buried," Meide said.

The team members estimated the ship's age based on the first few artifacts they've found on the site, such as lead shot.

The kind of lead shot they found dates back to 1665. They also found the base of a wine glass.

Meide pointed to the designs in the glass and explained, "These swirls definitely indicate it was an earlier vessel. This almost certainly dates to the 1700s."

LAMP has also found a cauldron which is still on the ship. It's unknown if it was cargo or a cooking item for the ship.

"This is a mass of different iron artifacts," Meide said as he lifted the heavy chunk from a tub of water. "I wouldn't be surprised if we were to find some ship fasteners, spikes and bolts in this."

The shipwreck is about a mile off the coast, between the St. Augustine Amphitheater and the St. Augustine Beach pier.

The site is 25-30 feet below the surface of the water.

Visibility is poor, so the crew has used heavy-duty metal detectors, sonar and many times, their hands to carefully scour the shipwreck site.

Archaeologists still don't know what ship they've found, how big it is, or what country sent it.

Meide said it's taken quite a bit of effort to build the LAMP team and to obtain the equipment needed for underwater research.

"So hard work has paid off and resulted in what may be a dream shipwreck for an archaeologist," Meide said, with excitement in his voice. 

So, with months of work behind them and more to do, Meide and his team are ready to unravel this shipwreck's mystery. 

First Coast News

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