450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: What Comes Next?

RV Roper

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

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On August 27, 2015, the field work phase of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey came to a successful end. Over the course of the project, 140 hours and 43 minutes of dive time was logged over 161 dives. During this time, 353 probe tests were completed over the 5 most promising magnetic targets, where multiple positive returns were encountered.

Of the five targets, one was dismissed as unlikely to represent a shipwreck due to inconclusive results with the probe, one was dismissed because of the presence of modern material, one was confirmed as a previously identified Iron Box Site,  which had not been witnessed since 1999, and one represents the potentially significant Nine Foot Under Site, although its location under nine to ten feet of sand means it will be some time before archaeologists can investigate this particular site further.

RV Roper

2016: New Discoveries To Be Made

The fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey may yet turn out to be the most significant of them all, and it is this target that we will return to this Friday, July 1st, as we begin our 2016 field season.

Over the past year, we have spent countless hours preparing for the continuation of research at this particular target, preparing the research report for this project, processing more magnetic data, performing seasonal maintenance on our dive equipment and research vessel, and we are finally ready to get back in the water and see what this exciting new target holds.

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum team in 2012 as a student at LAMP’s Underwater Archaeology Field School. She officially joined the lighthouse family as an archaeologist in July, 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho. 

Our first divers splash on Friday, July 1. Be sure to check back towards the end of our field season to see what comes of the fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Until then, we wish you all fair winds and following seas!

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum team in 2012 as a student at LAMP’s Underwater Archaeology Field School. She officially joined the lighthouse family as an archaeologist in July, 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho. 

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Identifying Elektra

Top: Kira Sund; Bottom (L to R): Josh Dotson, Sam Turner, Chuck Meide, Brendan Burke, Starr Cox, and Olivia McDaniel. Even after the slight disappointment of discovering modern debris, rather than a historic wreck, our divers remain optimistic, ready to get back to sea and continue our research.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

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The magnetic target known as Elektra was the smallest magnetic target chosen for further investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Archaeologists hoped that the small nature of the target might represent an older vessel, hypothesizing that an older wreck would have less iron remaining due to degradation over time, and would therefore have a smaller magnetic signature than more recent shipwrecks. A series of target testing dives revealed the source of the Elektra target.

Read on to see volunteer diver Kira Sund’s description of identifying Elektra!

Identifying Elektra

By Kira Sund

The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.
The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.

You are diving down on a potential new site; magnetometry readings indicated there was the potential for a shipwreck here, so it is time to set up a sample unit to investigate further. As you get ready to set the screw anchor to establish a fixed point to work from, your hand brushes up against a rough object.

You are momentarily startled; everything else around is sand or shells, so what is this strange item?

Leaning in closer you can see the outline emerge from the cloudy green fog; it looks somewhat like a concretion, the concrete like mixture of artifacts covered by shells and sand. Could it be that there is a shipwreck right on the surface?

This was the question encountered on one of the potential new sites surveyed. Continue reading

Saying Goodbye to the Rudder

Ordinarily, in the conservation blog posts, new artifacts are discussed. Ones being worked on or items that have been finished and are ready to join the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum collection. However, this month’s post is about an artifact that is leaving our grounds and heading back from whence it came.

In October 2005, a large northeaster hit the First Coast area. Because of the wind and storm surges, large shipwreck timbers were exposed on or near the ocean shoreline. One such timber was found and reported by former Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Director Billy Ray Morris.

Excavating the rudder from the beach.
Excavating the rudder from the beach.

It was a large, broken rudder made of five separate pieces of wood and sheathed in copper sheeting. The rudder was recorded in situ and left on the beach for a short time. In November 2005, the heavy, unwieldy artifact was lifted from the beach and moved to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR). Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Nine Foot Under Site

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

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Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.
Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.

Ground truthing, or testing previously identified targets, was one of the principal objectives of the 450th field season. The first site to undergo this ground truthing was a target that had originally been identified in 1995 by Southern Oceans Archaeological Research (SOAR) during the first purely research oriented marine magnetometer survey of the St. Augustine area.

The target was re-surveyed by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) in 2009 and designated as Hulk. It was selected for additional work in 2015.

Ground Truthing for Shipwrecks

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.
Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

First ground truthing efforts in 2015 yielded no results for this promising target so it was decided to acquire a new set of magnetic data. This target survey was done on July 15th and once contoured the data yielded a close but different location from which to begin ground truthing operations.

Dive operations began on July 16th, 2015 with a refined placement of the drop buoy by the first dive team. A twenty meter tape was centered on the target running east-west and the team began to test the transect with a hydro-probe, a galvanized steel pipe through which water is pumped at high pressure. Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Going in Blind

The black out mask obstacle course in the pool helps train divers to work calmly in poor visibility environments.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

Once the magnetometer data had been analyzed and the most promising targets chosen for further investigation, it’s time to put divers in the water and see what these targets reveal!

While we often experience a wonderful week or two of decent visibility during our summer field seasons, diving off of St. Augustine is more often than not a dark and murky experience. This, coupled with the nature of scientific diving in general, creates a challenging diving environment for our archaeologists and volunteers.

During the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, we were lucky enough to have those two weeks of decent visibility, but for the rest of the project, our divers were diving in the dark.

One of our newest volunteers, Kira Sund, joined the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) dive team for the first time during the project. Keep reading to see what Kira has to say about diving conditions off of St. Augustine, from the perspective of a brand new scientific diver!

As Kira says, "water so green, you can't always see your hand extended in front of you." The visibility in this image would be considered 'good' compared to many of the days we have spent diving in near darkness.
As Kira says, “water so green, you can’t always see your hand extended in front of you.” The visibility in this image would be considered ‘good’ compared to many of the days we have spent diving in near darkness.

Going in Blind

By Kira Sund

Divers must learn to work around these yellow hookah hoses, lest they tangle themselves in the coils.
Divers must learn to work around these yellow hookah hoses, lest they tangle themselves in the coils.

Diving in St. Augustine can be a bizarre experience to the newcomer. For me, my previous experience in diving had been limited to SCUBA diving in the Red Sea, with beautifully clear waters descending to 60 ft or more.

So it was a bit of a change to back roll off of a dive boat into waters so green you can’t always see your hand extended in front of you; even while diving at 30 ft or less.

Then, there is the use of hookah lines, air hoses that connect you to the boat, providing you with a constant air supply. The advantage of this is longer time on site, but there is the added complication of avoiding tangling the lines or catching the hoses on other equipment.

This all lends to St. Augustine scientific dives being more complicated than diving some of the common recreational sites. Continue reading