ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The recent tropical storm helped to uncover the remains of a shipwreck buried under a dune along Crescent Beach. Mark O’Donoghue, a local resident, found the exposed timbers and reached out to the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Director, Chuck Meide. The LAMP team began inspecting and documenting the shipwreck the same day.
After completing the initial survey, the LAMP team determined that the ship is likely an American merchant ship capable of carrying commodities like hardware or flour. Over 70% of all known historic shipwrecks lost in Florida are merchant vessels that participated in the coastal trade moving goods from one coastal port to another along the Atlantic coast. Dating the ship remains a bit tricky, however Meide believes it to date back to the 1800s. “Everything we’ve seen on it so far fits that hypothesis; wooden planking, wood timbers, iron fasteners. They look quite similar to other ships from the 1800s that we have seen.”
As the research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, LAMP has helped to identify several shipwrecks with the most recent coming ashore in March 2018 on Ponte Vedra Beach. Although the current shipwreck will not be recovered, the LAMP team will continue their survey work and take samples of the timbers and iron work. Flagler College students will also be working with LAMP to properly document and record the shipwreck, gaining field experience in archaeology. “Florida’s maritime past is America’s story as the nation’s oldest port dating back to the Spanish landing in 1565. The St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program is committed to saving our maritime history and passing these stories on to our future generations,” says Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the Museum.
Ironically, Meide believes that the shipwreck is the very ship mentioned in the Keepers’ Log of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. On August 29, 1880, the log mentions a ship wrecking roughly nine miles south of the Light Station. This location corresponds to the current position of the wreck. Using the date as a starting point, the LAMP team referenced newspaper articles that tell of a brig leaving Fernandina Beach, Florida, carrying lumber headed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ship, named the “Caroline Eddy,” ran into foul weather and was driven south by a gale or more likely a hurricane. The ship broke apart off shore, but the crew was able to survive by hanging onto the rigging. All the crew made it to shore.
The LAMP team believes that the “Caroline Eddy” is the most likely candidate for the shipwreck. Although not completely certain, much of the archaeological evidence matches the newspaper accounts of the ship. As the team continues their work on the shipwreck, they hope to confirm some of the questions.
The Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program as well as the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum are both non-profit organizations who rely upon your gifts to fund our mission and work. Please consider making a donation to the Museum and help us preserve our maritime past.
To learn more about maritime archaeology and the maritime history of St. Augustine, visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s Wrecked! exhibit featuring artifacts from the American Revolution. Located on the first floor and in the basement of the Keeper’s House, this exhibit tells the story of British Loyalists fleeing American forces as they approached Charleston. Florida was a British colony at the time and St. Augustine provided a haven for many escaping the war.
For more information on the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum or the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, please visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org. The non-profit Museum is open every day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM with special extended hours during the holiday season.
Links for the news stories on the shipwreck discovery:
News4Jax (story online): https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2020/11/16/shipwreck-uncovered-by-erosion-at-crescent-beach/
Archaeology Magazine: https://www.archaeology.org/news/9218-201118-florida-beach-shipwreck
Smithsonian Magazine: https://apple.news/A4VF39glPQQiTHghkx3QyzA