The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP)’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604). The purpose of the 2015 project was to search for and identify historic shipwrecks in Northeast Florida, particularly those dating to the earliest period of St. Augustine’s colonization. An extension of our 2014 Search for the Lost French Fleet project off the Canaveral National Seashore, the 2015 project focused on searching offshore St. Augustine in hopes of finding early Spanish shipwrecks.
This area had been previously surveyed in 1995 and in 2009, and the 2015 research focused on magnetic anomalies that had been identified in these previous surveys. Project fieldwork was carried out over 27 days between 01 July and 27 August 2015, under the auspices of a 1A32 Archaeological Research Permit (No. 1415.055) issued by the State of Florida. LAMP archaeologists first analyzed the magnetic data from the 2009 survey, contouring 16 magnetic targets. Two of these targets were re-surveyed in the field, to provide a more refined understanding of their magnetic signatures. After contouring analysis of the original and refinement data, many of these targets were dismissed as likely to represent isolated modern materials. Five anomalies, however, were believed likely to represent shipwreck sites, and were investigated further by divers.
During the course of the project, archaeologists completed 161 dives for a total diving time of 140 hours, 43 minutes. Using a hydraulic probe, a total of 353 probe tests were completed over seven days of probing at the five targets. Multiple hard returns were encountered at four of the five sites. In most of these cases, a 2 m by 1 m test unit was excavated by handheld dredges. By the end of fieldwork, one target was dismissed as unlikely to represent a shipwreck due to inconclusive results with the probe, one was dismissed because of the presence of modern material, one target was confirmed as a previously known shipwreck (the Iron Box Site) which had not been witnessed since 1999, and two new shipwreck sites were discovered and registered: the Nine Foot Under Site (SJ6460) and the Anniversary Wreck (SJ6461). The Nine Foot Under Site is deeply buried so its nature, condition, and cultural parameters remain mostly unknown. The Anniversary Wreck site was exposed during test excavation and is a significant find, representing a colonial shipwreck probably dating to between 1750 and 1800.
Since the close of fieldwork in late August 2015, project activities have focused primarily on data analysis, artifact conservation, equipment maintenance, and public archaeology. Explore the links below to dive deeper into the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey!
- Iron Box Site
- 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey Project Blog Posts
- Download a copy of the Spyglass magazine special issue focusing on the project and maritime archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse [PDF].