Dr. Sam Turner, LAMP’s Director of Archaeology, was recently interviewed by the Florida Today regarding Ponce de Leon’s landing site.
The controversy continues . . . did Ponce de Leon land in North Florida, as his log indicates? Or did he land further south, near Melbourne, where an avocational historian has traced his route as best he could reconstruct it using a modern sailboat? It is a matter of local pride for those of us in North Florida . . . and those in Melbourne. A recent article in Florida Todayallowed both sides to weigh in, including LAMP’s own Dr. Sam Turner, a Ponce de Leon scholar.
From Florida Today:

When unconventional historian Douglas Peck and his loyal crewmate, Hooker the tabby cat, attempted in 1990 to retrace Juan Ponce de León’s voyage of exploration, they ended up sailing near the Melbourne Beach shoreline — not St. Augustine.
Did the duo successfully upend centuries of academic history?
According to most schoolbooks, the Spanish conquistador sighted shore near the present-day city of St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in North America.
Spirited debate continues on Ponce de León’s landing site. And Florida’s looming 500th anniversary has thrust this controversy into the spotlight, with the Space Coast taking center stage.

The article is substantial and worth a read, and there is a great little video to accompany it. Considering that the newspaper in question is based out of Melbourne, we had expected there might be a little home team bias. And there was a pretty important hole in Melbourne’s argument that was not emphasized. The single primary piece of documentary evidence–the latitude recorded by Ponce de Leon the day before his landing–was not mentioned in the video at all. That latitude coordinate–30 degrees, 8 minutes–puts Ponce’s landing somewhere in the Ponte Vedra area, north of St. Augustine (even with the understanding that 16th century instruments and astronomical tables don’t have the accuracy of a modern GPS) . The alternative theory, based on a cruise taken in a marconi-rigged, modern sailboat, which certainly handles winds and seas very differently than a 16th century a square-rigged caravel, is based solely on a single voyage undertaken in the 20th century, not on a written fact in the historical record from the 16th century. You check it out and make your own decisions–we report, you decide!