San Agustín Rowing Challenge

On Saturday, July 4th at 11:00 AM, the inaugural San Agustín Rowing Challenge will be presented by the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation on the downtown waterfront. It’s the Men’s “Sons of Neptune” versus the Women’s “San Agustín Sirens” rowing crews. They’ll each take a turn rowing the San Agustín Chalupa competing against the tides and the clock.

Dr. Sam Turner (front row, left) is captain of the Sons of Neptune chalupa rowing team.

Dr. Sam Turner, Director of Archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, will be captain of the Sons of Neptune team and Executive Director Kathy Fleming will be one of the judges.

Watching a “Chalupa” a utility wooden workboat rowed along the waterfront was an activity familiar to the towns’ folks who lived here during St. Augustine’s 16th century Spanish Colonial period.

On July 4th spectators are going to see it in live action!

Lighthouse History 1954 – 1974

This seventh installment in our ongoing series on the history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse focuses on the end of the lighthouse keepers at the lighthouse and environmental changes in the area.

Click the links below to read previous posts in the series:

1954 – 1974

Lighthouse keepers served a vital function, keeping lighthouses operational at all hours of the night for ocean-going mariners. Their responsibilities were many, including carrying oil to the lantern through the night, rewinding the clockwork mechanism that turned the Fresnel lens, and keeping everything polished and oiled for efficient operation. However, improved technology slowly eliminated these responsibilities and in 1955, after alterations made the lighthouse fully automated, they removed the lighthouse keeper positions from the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

David Swain during his time as 1st Assistant at the lighthouse
David Swain during his time as 1st Assistant at the lighthouse

Retiring in July of 1955, James Pippin was the last head lighthouse keeper at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Following the abolishment of the lighthouse keeper positions, the U.S. Coast Guard appointed a single lamplighter whose responsibilities only required daily visits to the lighthouse. During these calls, the lamplighter would ensure that the light, lens, and motors were in good working order for the next evening. The first lamplighter was retired lighthouse keeper David Swain, who during his previous career served as 1st Assistant Keeper at the St. Augustine Lighthouse from 1933 to 1944.

While these operational and personnel changes occurred at the lighthouse, natural and artificial forces conspired to alter the area’s maritime landscape. The natural erosion and movement of sands along the St. Augustine coast was threatening to make the St. Augustine Inlet unnavigable. In the 1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers cut a new inlet to the north of the old one, essentially surrendering the later to its fate. Continue reading

Archaeology Field School Proves Challenging But Fun!

This blog was provided by Chris McCarron, one of the supervisors participating in this year’s underwater archaeology field school program.

IMG_2686The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is currently under way with its annual underwater archaeology field school as students dive off the coast of St. Augustine to find long lost artifacts from colonial era North America. This year’s roster includes five students from the United States and Canada, all with different fields of academic studies and a shared interest in finding and preserving history.

Continue reading

Lighthouse’s Underwater Archaeology Field School Begins Monday

Field School
Archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum will begin their annual field school in St. Augustine on June 1st with six students from around the world.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – Six students from as far away as Canada have arrived in St. Augustine, Fla., for the educational experience of a lifetime. Beginning June 1st, the students will join archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum for four weeks of hands-on, underwater research and excavation on historic St. Augustine shipwrecks.

Field School
Students inspect artifacts during a practice dive in Alexander Springs, Fla.

“St. Augustine is such a unique place. We have so many shipwrecks out there that it’s like an underwater archaeology laboratory offshore,” said Chuck Meide, Director of the museum’s Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP). “The lighthouse is one of the very few places that hosts an underwater archaeology field school, where students learn how to excavate a shipwreck diving side by side with professional archaeologists. There are probably only one or two other maritime archaeology field schools running in the country, so this is a pretty unique opportunity.” Continue reading

Solving a Shipwreck Puzzle One Artifact
at a Time

One of the most recent artifacts I have begun conserving is again an unexpected find. It is also a fitting item for the Storm Wreck as it is a microcosm of what has been found so far.

One of my job responsibilities is to perform public education while conserving objects. This typically means cleaning artifacts outside and interacting with visitors and answering their questions. Tuesday through Friday I usually work on concretions that either have multiple items within or larger pieces that will take some time.

On Saturdays, however, I try to work on artifacts that are visually interesting or recognizable to the general public. This is to try and engage them in discussion or at least make it easier to understand what I am doing during the conservation process.

A few weeks ago, I picked a concretion that would at least yield two artifacts the public would appreciate. In the X-ray there was a cannonball and a spoon clearly visible.

The third object was less evident, but appeared to be a small iron bar.

X-ray of artifact 14S 420.1
X-ray of artifact 14S 420.1

Although we have a few already conserved, I was primarily interested in the spoon because it has a higher probability for diagnostic information. I hoped that it would have either some maker’s marks or, like some of the others previously conserved, markings etched into the metal. Continue reading