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 Shipwreck on Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

P. Marlin April 2018

 

 

On March 27, 2018 a massive piece of hull from what is believed to be a wooden sailing ship built in the 1800s washed ashore after a heavy storm on South Ponte Vedra Beach, just north of St. Augustine. Crews from the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum, the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the University of South Florida examined the ship for clues and made the following determinations:1 2

-The ship was built between the 1830s and the 1860s. This is based on the circular and band saw marks on the planks, which would have been made by a steam-powered sawmill.

-The ship was built in the Southeast. The framing is in a deliberate, repeating pattern of hardwood in one plank and softwood in the next. The species look to be oak and pine. In the south, pines are everywhere and the shipbuilder might have reached for what was readily available, combining the strength of hardwood with the abundance of pine.

-The ship was relatively new when it wrecked. The big clue: There are no signs that repairs had been made, which any boat with a long working life would have had. In addition, the tool marks on the cargo hull were fresh, not scuffed by many loads of cargo. The tacks that would have held its copper-sheathed hull all looked to be the same vintage, indicating no repairs.

-It was a sailing ship — it’s hard to tell if it had two or three masts — between 100 to 150 feet long. That’s big enough to have made it a coastal trading ship, one of many that plied the coasts of America during that time, carrying goods from north to south or vice versa. Its crew would likely have been between a dozen to 20 men.

-The ship had probably been buried for over a century.

Once the ship came ashore it began drying and deteriorating. In mid April 2018, the state of Florida and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum moved the wreck off the beach, transporting it to a new home at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, a state facility about one mile away from where it washed up.

These photo were taken by me on April 7, 2018. The Roman numerals carved on the ship’s ribs — numbers XVIII through XXXI — can be seen in one of the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

1 Clues emerging to mystery of St. Johns County shipwreck
2 Ponte Vedra Beach shipwreck's final voyage