A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.
Welcome to the Keeper's Blog. Please join us on a discovery voyage. Share our tales of lighthouses and the sea. Talk with us at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum as we keep alive the history of the nation's oldest port.

July 31, 2014

Search for the French Fleet in the News!

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMPosts, Search for the French Fleet

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The cover of FYI, a supplement to Jacksonville's newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, announcing the search for the lost French Fleet!

We've recently had some more news stories out on our ongoing search for the lost French fleet of Jean Ribault. Shortly after our first week of survey we were interviewed by Jessica Clark of First Coast News. You can see the video here, its a really great newstory!

Continue reading "Search for the French Fleet in the News!" »

Hoisting the French Flag during the Search for Ribault's Fleet

Posted by: Chuck Meide in LAMPosts, Search for the French Fleet

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Fort Caroline National Monument Ranger Craig Morris and LAMP archaeologist/Flinders graduate student Brian McNamara pose with the French fleur-de-lys flag. It flew over Fort Caroline National Monument and will soon fly over the Roper as we search for the lost French Fleet of 1565.

Guest blogged by LAMP archaeologist Brian McNamara:

My spur of the moment decision to stop by the Fort Caroline National Memorial for a research visit on the way home from the airport could not have been better timed. I walked in one hour after a press conference formally announced they are fairly confident that the real location of the fort has been identified in Jacksonville. I must have looked conspicuous taking a million reference photographs in my LAMP tee shirt (and being the only visitor on site the whole three hours I was there). Ranger Craig Morris and Lynda Corley walked over and we had a long conversation about the new discovery of the fort and LAMP's ongoing search for Ribault's lost ships off of Canaveral. How fortuitous would it be to discover the wreck of Trinité within a couple weeks of the finding of the settlement that started the whole story?

The National Park Service staff at Fort Caroline National Memorial are very excited to see what comes of the search, and have honored us by presenting LAMP with Fort Caroline's flag, to be flown at Roper's masthead when we resume our work in the field.

July 30, 2014

Fort Caroline Discovered?

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMPosts, Search for the French Fleet

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Fort Caroline was built by the French in 1564 on the banks of the River of May, the present-day St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. Its exact location has never been found.

One of our archaeologists, Brian McNamara, visited Fort Caroline yesterday. He was one of the first to hear of a potential new discovery. State Representative Lake Ray and his son Lake Ray IV made the announcement yesterday that they believe they have identified the exact location of Fort Caroline, on the St. Johns River in the Timucuan Preserve, a National Park Service property that also includes the Fort Caroline National Monument.

From the Florida Times-Union:


The nearly 450-year-old site of North America’s first French colony is on a small island between Mayport and Buck Island, state Rep. Lake Ray said Tuesday. . . .

Ray said he’s confident the Jacksonville site is the real location of Fort Caroline. He asked that the location of the site not be disclosed to protect it from looters. The site is being protected by the Coast Guard and National Park Service, he said.

Finding the original site of Fort Caroline has been a hundreds-year-old mystery that Northeast Florida historians have long since tried to solve.

The French established the fort in 1564. Spanish soldiers from St. Augustine later attacked it and ultimately the French abandoned it.

Ray’s son, Lake Ray IV, has searched for the site of Fort Caroline since 2010.

Ray IV, who has a bachelor’s in history from the University of North Florida, brought his father in on the search about two months ago, and they used copies of maps they inherited from the state representative’s father.

Within those maps, they said, they found an original drawing of Fort Caroline, penned by a young man who sent the map back home to his father. They used geological survey maps from the early 1900s and found a small island that matched the map, Rep. Ray said.

He said moats that were known to have bordered the site are clearly visible on the land, and there’s an imprint of a triangular structure that was part of the fort and rectangular courtyard.

“If you get out on the island, there’s no doubt,” said Ray IV.

University of North Florida associate professor of anthropology Robert “Buzz” Thunen said researchers will need to find French and Spanish artifacts before the site can be verified.

No excavations have begun yet, but they may start within three weeks after researchers get the proper permits, Thunen said.

Barbara Goodman, National Park Service superintendent for the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and the Fort Caroline National Memorial, said archeologists will start by digging 10 or 12 test holes. From there, researchers will determine whether there’s enough cause to continue excavations.

“Its a felony for anyone who isn’t authorized to go digging around on the property,” she said. “As soon as we have some information to share, we’ll share it. Until we know what we have, we need to keep the site protected.”

She said research will start as soon as certain details, such as funding for the dig, can be settled

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NPR and First Coast News also ran stories on the potential discovery.

They used aerial photographs to identify landforms that might correspond to the remains of the original fort and its moat. At this stage I would say their finds are preliminary in nature, and would need to be tested archaeologically before we could say with any confidence that they represent the actual site of the fort. They supposedly have artifacts from the site, which I have not seen (and which would be illegal to have removed from the site without a National Park Service permit), that when analyzed by archaeologists might also lend credit to their claim. Regardless, there is excitement in the air about Ribault, Fort Caroline, and the Lost French Fleet this year, the 450th anniversary of the French settlement!

July 10, 2014

LAMP to Search for the Lost French Fleet of 1565

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMPosts, Search for the French Fleet

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Today was an exciting day. At 10am we hosted a press conference to announce to the world that we will be launching an expedition to search for the lost French fleet of Jean Ribault, wrecked in 1565. This project is funded by the State of Florida and NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration, and is being carried out in partnership with the National Park Service, the Center for Historical Archaeology, and the Institute of Maritime History.

The story has been making a big splash in the news. Two Jacksonville TV stations, First Coast News and News4Jax (Channel 4) broadcast stories, and it was carried by the Jacksonville and St. Augustine papers.

From the Florida Times-Union:

By Matt Soergel

ST. AUGUSTINE | A team of archaeologists unveiled plans Thursday for an oceangoing expedition to find the lost French fleet of Jean Ribault, which sank 449 years ago in a history-changing hurricane off Florida’s Atlantic coast. . . .

Finding the fleet would be momentous, said Chuck Meide, the expedition’s principal investigator.

“It is Florida’s origin story, so it is also the story of the birth of our nation,” he said at a press conference under the live oaks outside the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

Meide, 43, a maritime archaeologist with the Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program, will lead a crew of four on the search, which begins this month. They’ll spend up to six days at a time on a converted shrimp boat, using sonar to look above the seabed and a magnetometer to search for metal — cannons, cannonballs and other artifacts — under the sand.

Continue reading "LAMP to Search for the Lost French Fleet of 1565" »

Archaeologists to Search for Lost 1565 French Fleet of Jean Ribault

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This July and August, archaeologists will search for a fleet of 16th century French ships that were lost in a hurricane, resulting in the establishment of a Spanish colony in St. Augustine, Fla. in 1565.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – Later this July, researchers from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum will embark on a six-week search for the lost French fleet of Jean Ribault, which sank off the Florida coast in 1565. If discovered, these ships would arguably represent the most important shipwreck sites ever discovered in U.S. waters.

If these ships hadn’t gone down in a hurricane, the entire history of the First Coast, and that of our country, would be dramatically different,” said Chuck Meide, director of the museum’s Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program and the principal investigator on this expedition. “The loss of these ships and subsequent massacre of French survivors by Spanish forces is what led to the founding of St. Augustine by Spain 450 years ago.”

Under the direction of France’s King Charles IX, Ribault led a fleet of seven ships, including his 32-gun flagship, Trinité, to the New World in 1565. One thousand French colonists, sailors, and troops came with him to bolster the French colony at Fort Caroline, near the mouth of the St. Johns River. At the same time, Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived in Florida intent on destroying the French enterprise. In a preemptive strike to keep Menendez from establishing a colony in St. Augustine, Ribault sailed his four largest ships southwards, only to be struck by a hurricane which scattered and wrecked his fleet. With the loss of these ships, Fort Caroline was taken, Ribault and his men were put to the sword at Matanzas Inlet, and Spain established the first permanent settlement in the United States.

Though the French fleet has never been found, artifacts from survivor camps near the Canaveral National Seashore have given archaeologists an indication of where to search. This expedition will be the first geophysical survey ever conducted to search for these ships in the marine environment. If found these ships would be the oldest French vessels ever discovered in the United States, or anywhere else in the New World.

“This is a really exciting project for our museum and our state and federal partners,” said Kathy A. Fleming, executive director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. “We have done extensive research and exhibits on a number of area shipwrecks, but this one really tells the origin story of St. Augustine.”

This expedition is funded and supported by partnerships between the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the State of Florida, the Institute of Maritime History, and the Center for Historical Archaeology.

All partners involved in this historic project have leveraged their joint resources including expertise, equipment and funding to make the expedition possible. This project has been financed in part with historic preservation grant assistance provided by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission and a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (NOAA OER). The search has been tapped as one of NOAA OER’s signature expeditions for 2014.

The National Park Service’s Southeast Archaeological Center (SEAC) and Submerged Resources Center (SRC) are providing additional resources and support to the LAMP team and will be actively participating in the research. The search will be conducted from a research vessel provided by the Institute of Maritime History, and will use historical research undertaken in the French archives by the co-principal investigator on the expedition, Dr. John de Bry of the Center for Historical Archaeology in Melbourne, Fla.

To safeguard these archaeological sites, which are protected from molestation or looting by law, the specific locations of discovered shipwrecks and/or artifacts will not be disclosed via media or other means. Very few artifacts will be removed from any shipwreck sites discovered, and then only temporarily for documentation before being returned to their original location on or under the seafloor.

Results of the survey and search will be released after the expedition concludes in August. Information and updates will be available on the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum blog located at http://staugustinelighthouse.org.

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June 17, 2014

45 Scholarships Awarded to Local Students for Lighthouse Summer Camp

Posted by: Shannon in Public Relations

Thanks to several community partners, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum awarded 45 scholarships to St. Johns County students for the Lighthouse Ancient City Explorers Summer Camp.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – Excited chatter filled the 140 year-old tower at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum on Tuesday morning as students ascended 219 steps to the top. The museum’s Lighthouse Ancient City Explorers Summer Camp is in full swing, with six weeks of camp programming scheduled for June and July. This year, 45 at-risk students from St. Johns County will experience camp for the first time thanks to fundraising support from the local community.

“We are so thankful for all of the fundraising support and donations received from the St. Augustine community,” said the museum’s Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “From online contributions like the Sertoma Club’s Indiegogo campaign to the countless folks who have dropped off craft supplies, so many people have helped make this camp possible for our local students.”

Nearly 100 students, grades K-5, will attend camp over four weeks in June and July. Each week will highlight a different segment of St. Augustine culture including British, Menorcan and African-American heritage. In addition to discovering maritime culture at the lighthouse, students will also explore other historic St. Augustine sites and enjoy a sailing excursion onboard the Schooner Freedom.

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Through their Indiegogo campaign, the St. Augustine Sertoma Club raised more than $4,500 for the Steve Senecal Scholarship Fund. The fund will provide around 27 scholarships for summer camp as well as the holiday and spring break camps also hosted by the museum. Scholarships are awarded by the St. Johns County School District to recipients who show academic promise, but lack the financial means to attend camp.

Other community partners who contributed to the museum’s 2014 summer camp programs include the Barbara A. Kay Foundation, Diane’s Natural Food Market, Old Town Trolleys, the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, the St. Johns County Education Foundation, Baker Pest Control and Chick-Fil-A.

In addition to providing students with science, technology, engineering, arts and math experiences, the museum’s camp program also provides snacks and lunches for campers. For many local students who rely on free or reduced lunch programs to receive meals during the school year, this fulfills a critical need.

Beginning July 14th, the museum will also offer two sessions of ship modeling camp for older students who have completed grades 5 – 8. This unique camp combines elements of history and architecture. Volunteers from the museum’s traditional wooden boatworks and ship modeling group will assist students with interactive projects during each week-long session. Scholarships from this camp were provided by the Barbara A. Kay Foundation.

“We are so excited to provide these opportunities for St. Augustine students to experience the culture of our area,” said Fleming. “Summer camp is such a fun experience we all remember fondly from our childhood. We love creating the same great camp memories for new students.”

Openings are still available for the last two sessions of Lighthouse Ancient City Explorers Summer Camp (June 23 – 27; July 7 – 11) and both sessions of ship modeling camp (July 14 – 18; July 21-25). To sign your child up or make a donation to support camp programming, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org.

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ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MUSEUM:
A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest PortSM. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)3 non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is on a mission to preserve, present and keep alive the story of the Nation’s Oldest Port SM as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

June 13, 2014

Field School Update: Obstacles, Buttons and Diving

Posted by: Shannon in Field School

The 2014 LAMP Field School season is nearly at its halfway point.

The students have come a long way from blindly fumbling around obstacle courses at the bottom of a pool to performing real underwater archaeology on a revolutionary war era ship wreck.

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The Storm Wreck excavation is underway and everyone is hopeful for the potential discoveries.

The true identity of the vessel has yet to be discovered, but it has been narrowed down to one of sixteen possible ships that wrecked roughly a mile of the shore of St. Augustine on December 31, 1782.

Over the past four years, volunteer students from across the country have spent their summers with the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum working to uncover the ship’s last moments. So far, everything from cannons to sail cloth has been recovered on the site. Although much of the site still remains buried beneath the sand, some of the smallest finds have revealed the most information.

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Two military buttons from the Scottish 71st Regiment and the Colonial militia the ‘Royal Provincials’ represent the link between the ship’s passengers and the last fleet to leave South Carolina following the fall of Charleston to American troops during the final years of the revolutionary war.

The students of LAMP are the first people to touch these artifacts in nearly 320 years, and the significance is not lost on them. With two weeks left to go in the field school season, there are still potentially countless of personal artifacts left to find beneath the waves!

- Chris McCarron (University of Alabama - Birmingham) and Maddy Roth (St. Mary's College of Maryland)

June 2, 2014

LAMP's 2014 Field School in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide in Field School, In the News, LAMPosts

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Today was the first day of the 2014 Field School! Eleven students from across the U.S., from Oregon and Colorado to Florida and Vermont, arrived this weekend and this morning we all assembled at the Lighthouse for the first day of their training. This morning was orientation and paperwork, followed by an introductory lecture on maritime and underwater archaeology. Then the students rotated through different stations, where they practiced skills ranging from knot-tying to underwater search patterns, archaeological recording, setting up and using baselines for horizontal and vertical mapping, and compass use.

News travels fast in St. Augustine! The Field School students were highlighted in today's issue of Historic City News:

Archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum will begin their annual field school in St. Augustine on June 2nd with sixteen undergrad and graduate college students from around the world and as far away as Australia.

This year, students will be diving on a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck located one mile off St. Augustine’s historic coast. Lighthouse archaeologists have been excavating this wreck since 2010. Artifacts recovered from the ship have helped the team piece together the story of British Loyalists who evacuated Charleston, S.C., near the end of the American Revolution.

“Field school is a great opportunity for college students to get experience with all the aspects of archaeological research,” said Chuck Meide, Director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP). “Our training is unique in that we are one of very few organizations that can provide underwater excavation experience.”

The 2014 student roster includes Molly Trivelpiece (Longwood University), Hannah Lucke (University of Puget Sound), Bridget Stanton (Flagler College), Leeah Worley (Lycombing College), James Kinsella (University of Central Florida), Christopher McCarron (University of Alabama, Birmingham), Madeline Roth (St. Mary’s College of Maryland), Michael Reese (University of Colorado), Chandler von Cannon (Flagler College), Eden Andes (Florida State University) and Allyson Ropp (University of North Carolina, Asheville).

The students have arrived in St. Augustine for the educational experience of a lifetime. For the next four weeks, they will undergo hands-on, underwater research and excavation on historic shipwrecks.

Click here to read the entire article!

Archaeological Conservation Employment Positions at LAMP

Posted by: Chuck Meide in Job Opportunities, LAMPosts

LAMP and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum are seeking two positions, one full-time Assistant Archaeological Conservator and one part-time Archaeological Conservation Technician, to start in July 2014. These positions are grant-funded and will last two years (July 2014 through June 2016). The primary objective of these positions will be to assist LAMP's Archaeological Conservator in the treatment of artifacts recovered from the Storm Wreck, a Loyalist refugee vessel lost at the end of the American Revolution in December 1782 offshore St. Augustine. A significant assemblage of material culture has been recovered from the shipwreck to date, including cannons, firearms, cauldrons and other cookware, tableware, buttons, buckles, other personal items, tools, hardware, ship's equipment, navigational instruments, and the ship's bell. Successful applicants will have appropriate experience and training in the conservation of waterlogged archaeological materials, and will be able to interact with the public as our conservation laboratory is housed on the museum grounds and engages with the public whenever appropriate.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum and LAMP are equal opportunity employers. The Museum may be able to provide housing to successful applicants, in a dorm-like setting shared with other program participants (students, interns, visiting scientists, etc), if desired.

For further information, please contact LAMP's Archaeological Conservator Starr Cox at scox@staugustinelighthouse.com. Cover letters and vitae may be emailed to Brenda Swann, the Lighthouse's Director of Collections, Interpretation, and Programming, at bswann@staugustinelighthouse.com.

Click here for the Assistant Archaeological Conservator job description

Click here for the Archaeological Conservation Technician job description

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is the premier maritime museum located at the nation's oldest port, St. Augustine, Florida. Our mission is to Discover, Preserve, Present, and Keep Alive the Stories of the Nation's Oldest Port. LAMP, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, is the research arm of the Museum. LAMP conducts archaeological and historical research, archaeological conservation, traditional wooden boatbuilding, and other activities to realize the mission of the Museum. LAMP has been excavating the Storm Wreck since 2010 and with the Museum is planning a major exhibit focusing on this Revolutionary War shipwreck to open around late 2016.

June 1, 2014

2014 LAMP Field School in Maritime Archaeology

Posted by: Chuck Meide in Field School, LAMPosts

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The Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) is pleased to announce our 2014 Summer Field School. This year the field school will be held from June 2nd - June 27th at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. This comprehensive 4-week practicum will focus on the continued excavation of an 18th century shipwreck. Discovered in 2009, excavations began on this wreck site during the summer of 2010. Artifacts recovered from this site, along with documentary research carried out in the British National Archives, indicate that this shipwreck, known as the “Storm Wreck,” was a Loyalist refugee ship lost at the end of the Revolutionary War on December 31, 1782. Recent discoveries include hardware and rigging components, navigational and carpentry tools, a series of cast-iron and copper cauldrons, a small flintlock pistol and six cannon and the ship's bell. This summer’s activities will include mapping, recording and excavating an area adjacent to the 2010-2011 excavation units. Students will work alongside instructors to record and recover artifacts associated with this wreck.

Continue reading "2014 LAMP Field School in Maritime Archaeology" »