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Divers Find Rare Bell off St. Augustine Coast

6:23 PM, Jan 24, 2011   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Their excitement rang through every word.

They had found a  ship's bell, one of the most rare discoveries off the coast.

Divers from LAMP at the St. Augustine Lighthouse were on a routine site check of a shipwreck when Dr. Sam Turner saw what he described as a "horizontal shadow."

"And it was a bell," said Dr. Turner.  "There was no mistaking it.  I mean, there was stuff encrusted onto it, but it was very clearly a bell."

Employees with LAMP said only two bells have ever been recovered off the First Coast.

"The bell is traditionally known as the diver's holy grail," explained Chuck Meide, Director of LAMP.  "That's because a ship's bell is extremely rare and also, a ship's bell is often the best clue to the identity of a shipwreck."

Crews spent time Sunday removing some of the concretion that covered the bronze bell after years of sitting below the surface.

They had hoped to find a date or a maker's mark on the metal that would help them figure out the name of the ship.  However, with about 75 percent of the surface cleared, there was no clue to help them determine the ship's identity.

Meide estimated the rest of the restoration work could take a year.  During that time, the bell will have to remain wet to keep it from degrading, after an estimated 200 years under water.

Eventually, the bell will be put on display at the lighthouse museum, but in the meantime, the divers are enjoying their discovery 

"I've always had that tough question: 'What is the most amazing thing you've ever found underwater?'  Now I have no doubts," said Dr. Turner.  "Without a doubt, it's this bell.  It's an amazing find."

First Coast News

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