2008 Field Investigation and Site Monitoring
Investigations with test excavation were planned at this site for the 2008 First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project field season. The basic objective was to attempt to narrow the estimated date range for this vessel and learn more about its construction, cargo, and physical condition. Researchers planned to excavate up to 12 square meters in 2 by 2 m and/or 1 by 1 m units in the immediate vicinity of the exposed wreckage. One or more of these were be placed just to the west of what has been identified as the stern where wave energy and direction may have deposited small items during the breakup of the wreck. LAMP also proposed raising for conservation and eventual display one or more of the cement barrels.
Work on the site commenced in June 2008 in conjunction with the LAMP 2008 field school, accredited through Plymouth State University. The first two weeks were spent familiarizing divers with the wreck site, and establishing a 50 m baseline to serve as a frame of reference for mapping and for placing excavation units. Diving operations were slowed by zero to low visibility conditions. Once the baseline was fixed to the seafloor, running roughly parallel with the shipwreck southeast of its exposed remains, divers were able to tie in its position to the 2003 site plan by measuring from specific points on the baseline to identifiable features on the site plan, such as the concreted wheel located on the eastern edge of the western or larger cargo pile. Before excavations could commence, however, one of the principal investigators who also serves as LAMP’s Diving Officer suffered a dislocated shoulder on the surface before the first dive of the day, necessitating an emergency evacuation. Without the presence of the Diving Officer all diving was suspended, and LAMP’s research focus for the rest of the season shifted towards terrestrial excavations at the Tolomato Bar Anchorage Site, along the Tolomato River north of St. Augustine.
Project archaeologists have been conducting monitoring dives on the Centerboard Schooner Wreck regularly since 2006. A total of 33 individual dives for an aggregate 1,205 minutes of underwater time were completed on this site between 2007-2009, including the investigation activity described above. Throughout the course of these dives, researchers have witnessed periods where sand has been scoured away, exposing more wreckage, and periods when sand has accumulated. In general, no exposed hull remains have been observed as depicted in the 2003 site plan, so it is believed that sand levels are relatively greater than at that time. No signs of the “scour poles” placed in 2003 have been witnessed, and it is believed that these markers unfortunately do not hold up well over years in this dynamic environment.
The Centerboard Schooner Wreck was monitored using a sidescan sonar a total of three times between 6 June 2008 and 28 August 2008, and again on several occasions in June and July 2009. The two images below depict the disposition of the wreck and its condition before and after the impact of Tropical Storm Fay, a severe weather event which made landfall just south of St. Augustine on 21 August 2008 and pummeled St. Augustine for three days with prodigious amounts of rain and damaging winds only somewhat less intense than hurricane force (peaking at 110 km/h or 70 mph several days before landfall). Unlike the Industry wreck site located only a short distance away, which suffered erosion and greater exposure, the storm appears to have accreted sediments over the Centerboard Schooner Wreck.
Sonar image of the Centerboard Schooner Wreck recorded on 6 June 2008, two months prior to Tropical Storm Fay. Note the clarity of the edge of the wreck and lack of loose sediments around the base of the cargo of cement.
Sonar image of the Centerboard Schooner Wreck recorded on 28 August 2008, seven days after the storm struck 48 km (30 mi.) south of St. Augustine. Note the dark halo around the site, a result of sediment deposition after floating particulates fall out of suspension in turbulence caused by the site’s profile.
LAMP continues to monitor this site using sidescan sonar. Imagery generated of the site in 2010 and 2011 have revealed the site maintains a similar appearance as it did in 2008, with no significant site burial or exposure due to shifting sands.
Recommendations for Further Research
This remains a significant shipwreck site, and one worthy of further study. The proposed research program that was cut short in 2008 should be implemented in a future season, to learn more about the physical structure of the vessel and its cargo and better define a date range through the recovery and analysis of diagnostic artifacts. LAMP will also continue to monitor the site through sonar and diver visits.
Explore the links below to learn more about this shipwreck and the research that has been conducted to date:
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, Inc. We extend permission to scholars, students, and other interested members of the public to use images and to quote from text for non-commercial educational or research purposes, provided LAMP is acknowledged and credited. If there are any questions regarding the use of LAMP’s work, please inquire at LAMP@staugustinelighthouse.org.