A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

In the News

July 31, 2014

Search for the French Fleet in the News!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

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!" »

July 30, 2014

Fort Caroline Discovered?

Posted by: Chuck Meide

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


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


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

Posted by: Shannon


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.


June 2, 2014

LAMP's 2014 Field School in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide


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!

May 7, 2014

News of the Deliverance shipwreck from far and wide!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP archaeologists and volunteers mapping the shipwreck at Mickler's Landing at Ponte Vedra Beach. Our work and follow-up detective sleuthing lead to its identification as the Bermuda schooner Deliverance, lost in December 1947.

You have probably already read about the Mickler's Landing Wreck, which we recently identified as the Bermuda schooner Deliverance after a brief investigation on the second day of January earlier this year. We wrote about it here and here. Since that time there were a lot of media stories, which haven't all been listed on the blog, so I've got them all with links below the fold. The best article is the most recent, from the 19 April edition of Bermuda's newspaper the Royal Gazette . . .

. . . the remains of the ship have been reasonably firmly identified as the one owned by William Blackburn Smith, of Bailey’s Bay, that struck the rocks of the town of Ponte Vedra in the early hours of 13 December 1947, very stormy conditions having prevailed for sometime prior to its demise.

Demise was not in the heavens for its human compliment, so that all ten members of the crew and the captain were ‘delivered’ from the Deliverance. “Deliverance” is a very emotive and powerful word, especially in senses given in the Bible.

It has a special place and meaning in Bermuda history, as it was the name of one of the two vessels that delivered the Bermuda-stranded souls of the Sea Venture (wrecked 1609) to Jamestown, Virginia, in May 1610.

One of the strongest senses of the word is to rescue, or deliver, people from a dangerous and unpleasant situation, and that is its sense for the men of that other Deliverance on that cold, midwinter day in late 1947, as they waited beleaguered in rain, wind and heavy waves, but in sight of salvation on that Florida strand.

While we also had a ferry boat by the same name, it is likely that the 1947 Deliverance was the last Bermuda vessel of that name to work in the carrying trade, in that instance taking 100 tons of scrap metal for sale in Florida.

You may well ask where that amount of junk iron came from in tiny Bermuda of the day, but it is possible that it included old cannon and other artillery parts from our historic forts, as word has it that an operator from Florida was in Bermuda after the Second World War (1939-45) to carry out such a business.

At present, there is no known account of what happened to the cargo of the Deliverance, but as the vessel was driven onto the beach after its encounter with offshore rocks, it was likely stripped on the shore.

Read more below, and check out all of the other stories that have made local, regional, national, and international news!

Continue reading "News of the Deliverance shipwreck from far and wide!" »

April 3, 2014

Discovery on Lighthouse Grounds

Posted by: Christopher McCarron

LAMP director Chuck Meide cataloging dig site

Even after more than 140 years, the St. Augustine Lighthouse still has buried secrets that are just now being uncovered.

Continue reading "Discovery on Lighthouse Grounds" »

March 16, 2014

3/17/2014 Radio Interview: Chuck Meide on Florida Frontiers

Posted by: Chuck Meide

When I was in Cocoa Beach on March 7th to speak to the Florida Historical Society about our excavations on the 1782 Loyalist shipwreck (the Storm Wreck), FHS Director Ben Brotemarkle asked if I could sit down for a brief interview for their radio show, Florida Frontiers. I talked about our excavations on the Storm Wreck, and also fielded some questions on our upcoming search for the lost French fleet of 1565, and the ongoing controversial new theory that Fort Caroline is actually located somewhere in Georgia, not in Jacksonville.

Tune in to Florida Frontiers this Monday, March 17, at 6:30 pm on 89.9 WJCT (the Jacksonville station). It can be heard in many other NPR stations across Florida as well (click the link to Florida Frontiers to see where else it is airing, or to hear it online).

LAMP Director disputes alternative location of Fort Caroline

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Last month,at a conference in Tallahassee, two researchers--Crowe and Spring--gave a public presentation to announce their theory that the 1565 French colony of La Caroline was not in present-day Jacksonville, Florida, but some 70 miles to the north near Darien, Georgia. The evidence they presented to support this alternate hypothesis was not convincing to many of the scholars present at the post-presentation debate, including LAMP Director Chuck Meide.

From the March 15 edition of Ancient City News:

St Augustine Lighthouse Archaeologist, Chuck Meide, told Historic City News that he traveled to Tallahassee recently to challenge claims by scholars, Fletcher Crowe and Anita Spring, that French-occupied Ft Caroline is not actually located near Jacksonville, as we have been led to believe, but rather located along the St Mary’s River in Georgia.

Academic scholars presented the findings they have developed during course of their research. Their theory is that Ft Caroline was some 70-miles north, but Meide says that there are a number of problems with the evidence that was presented at the conference.

“First of all, it is problematic to use 16th century maps to determine an exact geographical location with any precision; as they are notoriously inaccurate and often mistakes were copied and re-copied by cartographers who had never even visited the New World,” Meide explained. “For every map presented that seemed to show the River of May further north — we could find another in which it is depicted in the Jacksonville area.”

Continue reading "LAMP Director disputes alternative location of Fort Caroline" »

March 11, 2014

The Controversy of Fort Caroline: A Timeline of Media Events - UPDATED

Posted by: Chuck Meide

The famous de Bry engraving depicting Fort Caroline, founded by the French Huguenots on the River of May at present-day Jacksonville, Florida. A recent theory of an alternate location for the fort (the Altamaha River in Georgia) has been met by skepticism from scholars but has attracted substantial media attention.

UPDATED 16 March 2014

When the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum hosted a recent French-themed Sea Your History event featuring a lecture by Dr. John de Bry and myself on the failed French colonization attempt in Florida and the lost Ribault fleet of 1565, we met a gentleman named Fletcher Crowe. He was friendly and related to me that at the upcoming Le Floride Française conference in Tallahassee he would be relating a history of Fort Caroline and the French settlement that was very different from the one we talked about. He certainly did. Newspaper headlines in late February reported breathlessly that scientists now believed Fort Caroline to be in the middle of Georgia, rather than Florida. LAMP and the Lighthouse immediately refuted this claim, which for many reasons is less than compelling, but it has still attracted widespread media attention. In this blog post I am summarizing and documenting some of the public statements and media stories made regarding this controversial and unproven new theory. To be clear, I am simply documenting how this story has been presented in the media, and not laying out an argument against the theory; but I will state explicitly that the ideas on the alternative location of Fort Caroline espoused by Crowe and Spring contradict decades of quality scholarship by archaeologists and historians regarding the settlement of Florida by the French and Spanish, and we find no merit in their claims.

Continue reading "The Controversy of Fort Caroline: A Timeline of Media Events - UPDATED" »

February 22, 2014

LAMP disputes new Fort Caroline claims

Posted by: Chuck Meide

For further information on this controversy, including a detailed summary of its evolution in regional and national media, click here.

Date: Feb. 22, 2014
Press Contact: Shannon O’Neil (904) 377-2643/soneil@staugustinelighthouse.org

St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeologist Disputes New Ft. Caroline Claims

Archaeologist Chuck Meide disputes new claims asserted about the location of Ft. Caroline at a conference in Tallahassee on Friday and maintains that evidence supports location in Jacksonville.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL. – Academic scholars opened a lively debate at a conference in Tallahasee, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 21st, with a claim that Ft. Caroline, long believed to have origins in Jacksonville, was in fact founded in Georgia. Chuck Meide, Director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, was at the conference and led the rebuttal disputing these claims.

“There are a number of problems with the evidence that was presented at the conference,” said Meide. “First, it is problematic to use 16th century maps to determine an exact geographical location with any precision, as they are notoriously inaccurate and often mistakes were copied and re-copied by cartographers who had never even visited the New World. For every map presented that seemed to show the River of May further north, we can find another in which it is depicted in the Jacksonville area.”

Meide, an Atlantic Beach native, has studied the French history of Northeast Florida for decades, both in and out of the water. This summer, Meide and his archaeology team from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum are planning an expedition to find the lost fleet of French captain Jean Ribault. Meide and several other historians have spent years researching French and Spanish records from the 16th century to determine where Ribault’s fleet sank while trying to sneak into St. Augustine in 1565. The relationship between St. Augustine’s location and that of Ft. Caroline plays heavily into Meide’s dispute of the new claims issued by scholars Fletcher Crowe and Anita Spring at the conference, La Floride Francaise: Florida, France, and the Francophone World.

“The most glaring problem with the Altamaha River theory is the location of St. Augustine,” said Meide. “We know that Menendez marched his men from St. Augustine on September 18 to attack the French, and they successfully sacked Fort Caroline on September 20. That is a two-day march through hurricane-force winds and rain. It’s not conceivable in those or any conditions that the soldiers could have made it to the Altamaha River from St. Augustine in two days.”

Meide brought this point up with Spring and Crowe during the debate that followed their presentation in Tallahassee. The researchers’ response indicated that they believe St. Augustine was actually founded further north, at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River.

Though it is well-known that the Spanish moved the settlement of St. Augustine twice, first from its original location at the Indian village of Seloy to Anastasia Island, and then from the island to its final location at present-day downtown St. Augustine, there is no evidence that the original site was as far north as the St. Mary’s River, which forms the Florida-Georgia state line.

“If Crowe and Spring’s theory is correct, then the Spanish would have moved the St. Augustine settlement 70 miles south, from the St. Mary’s River, to its present location. There is simply no evidence for this,” said Meide. “This new theory doesn’t stand up to the archaeological and historical information that has been amassed by scholars over the past fifty years. From the post-presentation debate at the conference, it seemed to me that most of the scholars attending from France and the U.S. were likewise not convinced that this theory holds water.”

Along with LAMP’s team of archaeologists and field school students, Meide has been diving and researching local shipwrecks that tell the story of St. Augustine’s roots for almost a decade. Recent dives on a 1782 British wreck have uncovered the history of evacuees who fled Charleston, S.C., bound for St. Augustine near the end of the American Revolution.

Meide hopes with the help of grant funding from the state of Florida that the expedition to find Ribault’s fleet will provide further evidence on the origins of Ft. Caroline, St. Augustine and the nation as a whole.


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 Port (sm). Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories 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.

Leave a Legacy of Light – click here to give a lasting gift of archaeology, education, historic preservation, and maritime heritage.

Continue reading "LAMP disputes new Fort Caroline claims" »

January 24, 2014

Another great news story on our latest beached shipwreck

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Just a quick update to our previous blog entry on the Mickler's Landing Wreck, which had become re-exposed on the beach a few days before the start of the new year. We had lots of great media attention from this wreck, and while I was out of the country attending the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings in frigid Quebec City, another news story on the wreck came out in the Jacksonville paper.

From the Florida Times-Union:

More remnants from Northeast Florida’s nautical past have revealed themselves on Ponte Vedra Beach.

But while experts think they know when the wreck occurred, what ship it was is still a mystery.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum archaeologists waded into the waves last week to look at 80 feet of iron and timbers revealed during a New Year’s low tide near Mickler’s Landing. It appears to be a schooner from the 1860s into very early 1900s. It apparently met a tragic end during a 1947 storm if a fuzzy photograph of a two-masted ship beaching there proves to be this wreck, Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program chief archaeologist Chuck Meide said.

“A schooner most certainly could have an iron frame and wooden planking,” Meide said. “It does have some iron plating on its bow, and that is a little strange. We haven’t seen any ship construction like that.”

Continue reading "Another great news story on our latest beached shipwreck" »

January 3, 2014

Mapping the Mickler's Landing Wreck at Ponte Vedra Beach

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP staff and volunteers documented a beached shipwreck on 2 January 2014, our first shipwreck project of the new year!

On New Year's Day LAMP got a call from First Coast News reporter Jessica Clark. She had been contacted by a local Ponte Vedra Beach resident, Sharon Caruso, about a shipwreck exposed on the beach.


A significant patch of wreckage was exposed in the surf which had been previously buried in the sand. At low tide the outline of a ship could be seen pretty clearly. First Coast News ran a story on the wreck that day:

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Carol Caruso likes to walk on Ponte Vedra Beach, but she hadn't been out in a few weeks. When she walked along the shore Tuesday, she saw something big.

With her hands held out wide, she said, "This is what I found at low tide!"

It appears to be the skeleton of a ship, right where the waves hit the beach.

"I've been looking at it for two years," Caruso explained but she's never seen so much of it coming out of the sand.

"Generally it's just that point, literally that point sticking up and that's it. So I thought this had to be something special," she beamed.

The ribs of the ship appear to be jutting out from the beach above the waves.

. . . Archaeologists with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (or L.A.M.P.) in St. Augustine have been out to the site before, studying it. However, after seeing pictures of the ship Wednesday, archaeologist Brenden Burke said he and the L.A.M.P. team have never seen so much of the ship exposed.

Burke explained that parts of the ship have been revealed three times in the last six years.

The very next day, LAMP sprung into action, and a group of archaeologists, students, and volunteers assembled on the beach at the start of low tide to document the newly exposed portions of the wreck.

Continue reading "Mapping the Mickler's Landing Wreck at Ponte Vedra Beach" »

November 19, 2013

Former LAMP student, now CEO of Britain's Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust, investigates Scottish shipwreck

Posted by: Chuck Meide

This shipwreck was recently exposed on the beach at Bamburgh Castle in Scotland. One of our former students, Jessica Berry, was called in to investigate.

Here at LAMP we always are proud to see our former students make good! We recently saw a news story involving one of our 2007 Field School students, Jessica Berry. She was a Flinders University student at the time, working on her master's degree, and she participated in the joint Flinders-LAMP Field School in that year, which was the first Field School LAMP ever sponsored (we have continued to run a summer field school in maritime archaeology each year since). Jessica, a native of the United Kingdom, was a great student, lots of fun to work with, and she even authored some of our LAMPosts Blog entires--check them out here and here .

Continue reading "Former LAMP student, now CEO of Britain's Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust, investigates Scottish shipwreck" »

November 7, 2013

Prominent investor blasts treasure hunting as a worthless investment--UPDATED

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Photograph by Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP Photo

UPDATED -- Click here for an update to this story via a press release from Meson Capital Partners, LLC. Full updated report is here.

This morning we saw an article in Bloomberg Businessweek highlighting a report released by a Wall Street short seller and investment activist. This report is a damning indictment of the treasure hunting industry, and in particular Odyssey Marine, the well-known treasure hunting company based out of Tampa:

Exploring shipwrecks may provide fun and adventure, but whether it’s a good business is a different question. Perhaps the most well-known treasure hunter, Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX), has made headlines for years, including last year when, as my colleague Susan Berfield reported at the time, Odyssey’s brash chief executive officer led the money-losing company in an (ultimately unsuccessful) battle to claim profit from coins found in a Spanish shipwreck. The company’s now in the limelight again, and not in a flattering way. Late last week, a young activist investor published a 66-page report (pdf) outlining an argument for why Odyssey’s stock “is worth $Zero.” The investor, Ryan Morris, alleged the company used offshore entities to obscure its true value, and the company let executives “live a life of glamor hunting the ocean while disappointed investors foot the bill.”

Continue reading "Prominent investor blasts treasure hunting as a worthless investment--UPDATED" »

October 25, 2013

LAMP investigates beached shipwreck exposed by storm

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP archaeologists investigate a newly discovered shipwreck site on Ponte Vedra Beach. From left to right are LAMP Archaeological Conservator Starr Cox, LAMP Director Chuck Meide, Lighthouse staff Dennis Kirk, LAMP archaeologist Sam Turner, and volunteer Peggy Friedman, who discovered the shipwreck two days earlier.

Last Wednesday morning our friend Peggy Friedman, who volunteers with the local sea turtle patrol, was walking the beach looking for sea turtle nests when she encountered something unexpected--the old wooden bones of a shipwreck jutting out from the dunes. Earlier in the week a nor'easter storm had raked our coast, and caused massive erosion of the beach, so that the the seaward half of the sand dune had effectively been scooped away, exposing the remains of the shipwreck. Peggy told the scientists at the GTM-NERR (Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve), who have jurisdiction over this location, and they contacted me here at LAMP.

A quick visit to the site with the other LAMP archaeologists confirmed that this was indeed the remains of a beached ship. After this brief inspection on Thursday, we knew that we had to return the following day for a more thorough investigation of the wreckage, and our public relations coordinator, Shannon O'Neil, sent out a notification to the press. Boy was there interest! During our investigation on Friday I was interviewed no less than six times! We lot a lot of great press, and the links to videos and newspaper articles are included below the fold . . .

Continue reading "LAMP investigates beached shipwreck exposed by storm" »

October 1, 2013

LAMP research highlighted in Australian magazine

Posted by: Chuck Meide


One of our former graduate students, Kyle Lent, recently published an article on his work with us in Flinders University's magazine Engage, the July 2013 edition. Flinders University is located in South Australia and we have worked with their faculty and students many times before (see here, and here). Kyle served as a Field School Supervisor during the 2012 season, and worked as a volunteer archaeologist for many months after that, until he got a job with the archaeological consulting firm SEARCH. He is one of our many success stories!

The entire issue of Engage is available as a pdf, and you can read it here. Below is a snippet, but by all means check out the entire article!

The final months of the American Revolution (1775-1781), were an exceptionally perplexing time for everyone involved. As British control over the colonies was diminishing, many loyalists looked to the horizon to flee what would soon be a new rule. East Florida’s inviting climate and its loyalty to the crown proved to be an enticing prospect. Based on many archaeological assumptions, supported by an equal amount of archaeological evidence, the Storm Wreck is, in all likeliness, an example of a colonial-era British loyalist refugee ship which attempted to flee Charleston, South Carolina, and met its demise while attempting to enter St Augustine at the end of, or shortly after, the Revolution.

230 years later, archaeologists cast off the dock lines of a former 36-foot steel hulled shrimping boat turned research vessel, set GPS navigation to the site coordinates, and put a fresh pot of coffee on the boil one early June morning. As the sun rises above the horizon, so the 2012 field season begins.

LAMP Boatworks featured in Canada's Classicboat Magazine

Posted by: Chuck Meide


LAMP and the LAMP Boatworks is featured in the Fall 2013 issue of Classicboat Magazine, the publication of the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Antique and Classic Boat Society.

The article does not appear to be online, though the previous issue does feature its articles online, so it may appear there in the future. But I'll give you a little teaser here . . .

In addition to the Lighthouse, there are a number of smaller buildings on the site, and a few of those house the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) which conducts and studies old maritime wrecks. They bring artifacts up from their resting place on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and, in some cases, the wrecks are chemically and electrically stripped of their salt water scale and corrosion for study and documentation.

. . . . In 2007 a plan was put into motion to start up a volunteer group to build these small boats. Maury Keiser took up the challenge and the lead to assemble and start up a small group of volunteers. Like most groups, they evolved and found their way. Start up funds and continuing revenue sources are always an ongoing challenge. The idea was and still is to build a continuing and expanding group that, with experience, will develop a more complex skill set in traditional boatbuilding. As more volunteers enter the program, these skills are passed and shared.

Continue reading "LAMP Boatworks featured in Canada's Classicboat Magazine" »

September 7, 2013

Storm Wreck carronade sees the light of day

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP's Archaeological Conservator, Starr Cox, uses a pneumatic airscribe to clean the muzzle of the carronade recovered from the 1782 Storm Wreck. Photograph courtesy of the St. Augustine Record

On Friday, 23 August, we temporarily removed our carronade from its conservation vat for a special cleaning session. This carronade along with another cannon was recovered from the Storm Wreck and bears the date 1780. Our goal on Friday was to change out the solution of water and sodium carbonate so the electrolysis treatment could continue, and also to clean the muzzle of the gun in order to get an accurate measurement of its bore diameter. This figure will be used to develop an auger-like device to clean out the bore during a future cleaning session. We also were able to weigh the gun, and discovered a new marking cast into the gun which had previously been obscured by corrosion.

Continue reading "Storm Wreck carronade sees the light of day" »

April 22, 2013

The First Woman Lighthouse Keeper, Right Here in the Nation's Oldest Port

Posted by: Chuck Meide

The original St. Augustine Lighthouse was built of coquina around the 1730s, and collapsed into the sea just three years after the present-day tower was completed in 1874. It was here that Minorcan resident Maria Andreu served as Lighthouse Keeper after her husband, the former Keeper, died in 1859.

There was a great article in the St. Augustine Record today, that also ran in Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union, about the first woman to serve as a Lighthouse Keeper in the U.S. And it happened right here, another first for America's first successful, continuously operating port city. Not surprisingly given St. Augustine's diverse heritage, this pioneer was not only the first woman but the first Hispanic woman to serve in this post, and is also considered the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard (though at the time, the agency managing Lighthouses was known as the U.S. Lighthouse Service).

From the St. Augustine Record:

Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu stands out both in the annals of the U.S. Coast Guard and the federal government.

In 1859 she assumed the watch as the lighthouse keeper at St. Augustine Lighthouse after her husband, Juan, died. Maria Andreu thus became not only the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard but also the first to command a federal shore installation, say officials.

Her appointment came after her husband died on the job. According to a report in the St. Augustine Examiner on Dec. 10, 1859, “Monday last … (Joseph Andreu) was engaged in white washing the tower of the Light House” when the scaffolding gave way and he fell 60 feet. He died almost instantly.

Its a really great article, one of the best I've seen on the Lighthouse, so go read the entire thing here.

March 29, 2013

Workboat Magazine Highlights the Storm Wreck

Posted by: Chuck Meide

A few weeks back I had a great little phone interview with the writer Gary Boulard, who was really fun to talk with. He was on assignment for WorkBoat Magazine. He was calling because of a press release announcing the archival research that I had recently carried out in England. Now Garry's article has come out, and its a fun read . . . .

From WorkBoat Magazine:

In May 1782, the editors of the British-run Royal Gazette in Charleston, S.C., posted an almost idle boast.

“We insert with pleasure, what gives us every reason to believe,” the paper declared, “that neither American independence will be recognized, nor the friends of British Government in this country deserted, by the present Ministry of England.”

Just seven months later, with the Revolutionary War all but over, the British left Charleston.

“They evacuated Charleston, which was a huge port, and went in several different directions,” said Chuck Meide, the director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. “One squadron went to England, one went to Halifax, one to Jamaica.”

But many of the vessels headed for St. Augustine, Fla. “We were getting swamped with people — our population exploded,” noted Meide. “We became the third or fourth largest city in all of the colonies.”

But on the way to St. Augustine, the vessels loaded with British loyalists confronted head-on a treacherous and well-known sandbar. At least 16 ships were wrecked as a result of the sandbar or for other reasons in December 1782.

One of those vessels was the Storm Wreck, currently being excavated offshore by archaeologists with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.

Read the entire article here!

Garry has expressed interest in a follow-up story, focusing on our research vessels and the equipment used during shipwreck excavations and artifact recovery. I'm looking forward to working with him again, and hope that this time we can meet in person and get him out on the deck of the Roper!

March 27, 2013

LAMP's Ponce de Leon Research Featured on Smithsonian.com

Posted by: Chuck Meide


We've been seeing a lot of Dr. Sam Turner's work in the news lately, because the 500 anniversary of Ponce de Leon's first landing in Florida is fast approaching (just a few more days now!) The latest national media organization to pick up this story is Smithsonian Magazine, whose webpage Smithsonian.com just featured Dr. Turner's research regarding Ponce de Leon's voyage of discovery:

And so, on March 27, 1513, the first sighting of Florida by Juan Ponce and his fleet. A continued northward voyage and a bout of bad weather later, Juan Ponce and his crew went ashore on April 3 somewhere north of present-day St. Augustine.

Though Juan Ponce was the first to “officially” discover Florida—the first with approval by the Spanish king for such a quest—says Turner, he was not, of course, the first to actually do so. Slave runners had been traveling around the Bahamas for years.

During the course of one of these slaving voyages by a mariner named Diego de Miruelo, a large land to the north had been accidentally discovered when his vessel was driven north in a storm. There he traded with those he encounters but took no captives. Shortly thereafter, slavers went directly to this new land in search of slaves. Thus the initial discovery in the north became common knowledge that ultimately led to Juan Ponce’s licensed voyage of discovery in 1513.

Click here to read the entire article!

500 Years Ago Today: Florida is Sighted by Ponce de Leon

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Dr. Sam Turner, LAMP's Director of Archaeology, has been writing a recurring series of articles for the St. Augustine Record regarding Ponce de Leon's voyage of discovery 500 years ago.

LAMP's own Dr. Sam Turner continues his column in the Record, which has been picked up elsewhere across the state, on Ponce de Leon's 1513 voyage of discovery. The most recent installment published Sunday highlight's de Leon's first sighting of the land he would name "La Florida."

From the St. Augustine Record:

On Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, land described as an island in the Herrera account was sighted to the west. This was the first sighting of the Florida coast. This first sighting is where many writers on the subject of the discovery of Florida err in their interpretation of Herrera. This stems from a simplistic approach to the text. Because the land is described as an “island,” many historians assume that it must be one of the numerous Bahamas Islands known to the Spanish as the Lucayan Islands. It was not until some years after 1513 that the Spanish themselves realized that Florida was part of a greater land mass. This 16th century misunderstanding of geography continues to confuse scholars to this day.

As noted previously, the Lucayan Islands had been scoured and largely depopulated by Spanish slavers who had also made a number of incursions into Florida for the same purpose by 1513. It is very unlikely therefore for any of the Lucayan Islands to have been unknown and un-plundered of their inhabitants by Spanish slavers. The unidentified island sighted March 27 was the east coast of Florida.

Read the entire article here.

Read the first installment of Sam's series, 20 January 2013, here.

Read the second installment, 03 February 2013, here.

Read the third installment, 17 February 2013, here.

Read the fourth installment, 03 March 2013, here.

Read the fifth installment, 17 March 2013, here.

March 19, 2013

Research in the British Archives Makes the News, and Another Great Discovery!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

This letter, dated 9 January 1783, from East Florida's British Governor, Patrick Tonyn, to the British Commander in Chief Sir Guy Carleton in New York, reports the loss off St. Augustine of the Rattlesnake, along with two victualing ships and six private vessels.

As I've blogged earlier, I recently made a trip to England where I spent four days immersed in dusty old volumes and sheafs of parchment, searching for clues to the identity of our shipwreck here off the coast of St. Augustine. Our PR specialist Steve Higgans put word out on the trip in the form of a press release, and it attracted some attention both near and far.

From Jacksonville's newspaper, Florida Times-Union:

Chuck Meide let his fingers do the walking through Britain’s National Archives, and the trip shed new light on the ship that probably wrecked off St. Augustine toward the end of the Revolutionary War in 1782.

But while the recent document search gave a new clue to the mystery ship’s identity, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum’s archaeology director also found another that says it shouldn’t have been anywhere near St. Augustine.

Continue reading "Research in the British Archives Makes the News, and Another Great Discovery!" »

March 11, 2013

The Ponce de Leon Controversy Continues . . .

Posted by: Dr. Sam Turner

Dr. Sam Turner, LAMP's Director of Archaeology, was recently interviewed by the Florida Today regarding Ponce de Leon's landing site.

The controversy continues . . . did Ponce de Leon land in North Florida, as his log indicates? Or did he land further south, near Melbourne, where an avocational historian has traced his route as best he could reconstruct it using a modern sailboat? It is a matter of local pride for those of us in North Florida . . . and those in Melbourne. A recent article in Florida Todayallowed both sides to weigh in, including LAMP's own Dr. Sam Turner, a Ponce de Leon scholar.

From Florida Today:

When unconventional historian Douglas Peck and his loyal crewmate, Hooker the tabby cat, attempted in 1990 to retrace Juan Ponce de León’s voyage of exploration, they ended up sailing near the Melbourne Beach shoreline — not St. Augustine.

Did the duo successfully upend centuries of academic history?

According to most schoolbooks, the Spanish conquistador sighted shore near the present-day city of St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in North America.

Spirited debate continues on Ponce de León’s landing site. And Florida’s looming 500th anniversary has thrust this controversy into the spotlight, with the Space Coast taking center stage.

The article is substantial and worth a read, and there is a great little video to accompany it. Considering that the newspaper in question is based out of Melbourne, we had expected there might be a little home team bias. And there was a pretty important hole in Melbourne's argument that was not emphasized. The single primary piece of documentary evidence--the latitude recorded by Ponce de Leon the day before his landing--was not mentioned in the video at all. That latitude coordinate--30 degrees, 8 minutes--puts Ponce's landing somewhere in the Ponte Vedra area, north of St. Augustine (even with the understanding that 16th century instruments and astronomical tables don't have the accuracy of a modern GPS) . The alternative theory, based on a cruise taken in a marconi-rigged, modern sailboat, which certainly handles winds and seas very differently than a 16th century a square-rigged caravel, is based solely on a single voyage undertaken in the 20th century, not on a written fact in the historical record from the 16th century. You check it out and make your own decisions--we report, you decide!

February 5, 2013

So You Want to Own a Lighthouse, Do You . . . ?

Posted by: Chuck Meide


A great blog entry has been making the rounds lately, written by Craig Morrison, the owner of the Execution Rocks Lighthouse in Long Island Sound. In his Diary of a Light Keeper he tells the story of how he was first inspired to seek out, acquire, and manage his own lighthouse. We here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum are proud that we played a role in his inspiring story:

Sometime back around 2001, I was watching the NPR show on TV about the lighthouse act written by Gale Norton, Secretary of the Department of the Interior with my girlfriend/attorney, Linell. I asked if we could start a nonprofit and get one. She agreed.

I found a course at St. Augustine Lighthouse, Florida, hosted by the US Coast Guard, the National Park Service, the GSA, among many other lighthouse constituents. Linell and I spent a week in classes about bricks and Fresnel lenses and the Secretary of the Interior's standards for lighthouse restoration. We bought the book in print, which is now available online. We also met a lot of folks that had ownership interests in lighthouses and that were interested in getting one. Some folks just loved lighthouses.

Our Lighthouse here in St. Augustine was chosen as the first to be turned over to a responsible non-profit organization by the Department of Interior, and we organized and ran the training course that Mr. Morrison refers to. So we are proud to be a leader that has helped the cause of Lighthouse preservation not only in our nation's oldest port but elsewhere across America.

Craig's story is a great read! Check out the whole thing for yourself here!

LAMP's Dr. Sam Turner to Write a Series on Ponce de Leon for Florida Newspapers

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Dr. Sam Turner began writing a new series of articles on the history of Juan Ponce de Leon's voyage of discovery that are running in a number of Florida newspapers.

Dr. Sam Turner, one of LAMP's archaeologists and a historian specializing in reading 16th century Spanish script, was invited to write a series of articles on Juan Ponce de Leon for the local newspaper, the St. Augustine Record. Debuting on January 20, the articles were picked up by a number of other Florida newspapers, including the Tallahassee Democrat. We are proud that Dr. Turner will reach such a wide readership as he explores the history of this fascinating Spanish conquistador, who 500 years ago this year was the first European to formally discover and name the land of Florida.

From the St. Augustine Record, 20 January 2013:

In the port of Yuma, in the province of Higüey on the eastern end of the island of Espanola, a fleet assembled. The province of Higüey had been conquered by Juan Ponce de Leon and Spanish troops in 1504 and Ponce was selected by the governor of Espanola to administer the newly conquered territory. It was the big break that put Ponce on the stage of history.

Thus began the epic voyage that would lead to the discovery of Florida in April of 1513, and culminate with Ponce de Leon's death in an attempt to colonize the peninsula. We hope everyone will read along with each installment as we apply some serious scholarship to the dramatic story of Ponce de Leon!

Read the first installment, 20 January 2013, here.

Read the second installment, 03 February 2013, here.

January 23, 2013

Newly Discovered Shipwreck on Cumberland Island

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The remains of a wrecked wooden ship, or a section of a wrecked vessel, were recently discovered on Cumberland Island, a barrier island north of St. Augustine on the Georgia coastline. Cumberland Island National Seashore is within the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and therefore National Park Service archaeologists from the Southeastern Archaeological Center will be investigating this interesting find. It is reminiscent of ship remains that have been found on the beach here in our area, includingthe Blowhole Wreck, the Ponte Vedra Beach Wreck, and the Vilano Beach Rudder and Chainplate sites.

From News4Jax.com:

ST. MARYS, Ga. - Cumberland Island National Seashore on Tuesday announced the discovery of a previously undocumented shipwreck located within the boundaries of the seashore.

The wreck, first discovered by Cumberland Island National Seashore maintenance staff, was uncovered during a period of unusually high tides and surf. This is the first documented shipwreck found along the shoreline since the park became a part of the National Park system in 1972.

The park's Resource Management staff made an initial assessment and National Park Service Archaeologists based at the Southeast Archaeological Center in Tallahassee, Fla., conducted excavations last week.

Read the entire article here.

December 11, 2012

Focus on the St. Augustine Inlet

Posted by: Chuck Meide

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection vessel, participating in their St. Augustine training program, powers through the inlet, between channel markers and with the sea buoy in the background. Photo by Peter Willott, courtesy of the St. Augustine Record.

In last Sunday's local newspaper there was a great article on St. Augustine's Inlet. Our port's connection to the sea has always been a vital but potentially dangerous link to the outside world, and the hazards of navigating the channel are still well-known to mariners today, as they were for hundreds of years.

From the St. Augustine Record:

With constantly shifting sands, the St. Augustine Inlet has always been a challenge to navigate, and vessels have foundered trying to enter the nation’s oldest port since the earliest days of colonization. Even the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Notice to Mariners lists the St. Augustine Inlet as “dangerous due to shifting shoaling.”

LAMP's own Brendan Burke, a licensed boat captain, was consulted for the article and his quotes are prominently featured:

Continue reading "Focus on the St. Augustine Inlet" »

December 2, 2012

Lighthouse Seeks Volunteer Ship Model Builders

Posted by: Chuck Meide


From the article in the St. Augustine Record:

When Katie McNally, from Ontario, N.Y., donated nine model boats to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in the autumn of 2011, one was held back. It wasn’t finished. It was the hull of the model of the British Ship HMS Victory, and it was being completed by her husband James G. (Jim) McNally, Jr. when he passed on in 2005.

The model ended up in the hands of the family friend, Doug Anderson, of Marsh Creek, who gave much of his time, driving and arranging the prior model ship donations to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, St. Augustine’s only Smithsonian Affiliate Museum.

The museum is looking for a volunteer modeler or modelers to take the unfinished hull in Anderson’s possession and complete it during the museum’s public hours. The volunteer or volunteers will be requested to work on the model and, at the same time, talk to the public about model building, why it is important to museums, and how it helps inform those who study ships and Atlantic Navigation. “There is much more to the art and craft of model building” than you can imagine, said museum curator Kathleen McCormick. The modelers can select from a variety of upcoming dates during the Sea Your History Weekends program funded by the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council.

We have already had a few calls from model shipwrights interested in volunteering. In addition to the model of HMS Victory, we also have an unfinished model of the Civil War privateer Jefferson Davis that is in need of completion. If you have these skills and are interested in donating your time to these projects, please contact us at 904-829-0745, or email Dr. Sam Turner at sturner@staugustinelighthouse.org.

Read the entire article here.

October 6, 2012

Great story on the Storm Wreck in Charleston's Paper

Posted by: Chuck Meide

A really great article on our work on the Storm Wreck just came out in the Charleston paper, The Post and Courier:

This week, archaeologists with the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum found a button on a Florida shipwreck that may help identify it as one of those ships that left Charleston in the waning days of the Revolutionary War.

Chuck Meide, archaeology director at the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, said divers found a button on the ship that appears to have the number “74” on it. That could identify it as a button of the uniform of a soldier in the British Army’s 74th Regiment, Campbell’s Highlanders.

That regiment helped evacuate Charleston more than two years after they took the city in the longest siege of the Revolution.

Meide said the button only reinforces the belief that they are excavating one of the lost Loyalist ships.

“It’s just like everything is really coming together, every piece we find,” Meide said.

We have since realized that what we thought was a 74 is actually a 71, which makes more sense as the 71st Regiment was in Charleston and evacuated on the last fleet to leave that city.

Read the entire article here, its great!

October 4, 2012

Button from shipwreck identifies it as Revolutionary War shipwreck

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Check out this story in the local paper, the St. Augustine Record:

A corroded uniform button found in the mud off the St. Augustine Beach pier could be the “smoking gun” that leads to identifying a mystery shipwreck.

And the copper coin with a face of what could be Britain’s King George found by a Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program volunteer just adds to evidence that the wreck could be part of a British Revolutionary War fleet that fled Charleston in 1782.

Read the entire story, but note that at the time it was printed we has misinterpreted the button as having a "74" on it. It is actually a 71, but the significance is the same--the 71st Regiment was stationed in Charleston and evacuated on the last fleet to leave the city, the same fleet that lost 16 ships on the St. Augustine bar on December 31st, 1782.

October 1, 2012

Former LAMP Director Named State Underwater Archaeologist for North Carolina

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Billy Ray Morris, who founded LAMP in 1999.

Former Director and founder of LAMP, Billy Ray Morris, recently accepted the job of North Carolina State Underwater Archaeologist. Morris will run the state's Underwater Archaeology Branch at Kure Beach, North Carolina.

From the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Newsroom:

His work at Cultural Resources will include expansion of the state’s shipwreck data files, and sharing that information with students and professional researchers. He will process permit applications for exploration of historic resources in state waters, and will also guide research on the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck, and on numerous Civil War shipwrecks and other sites yet undiscovered.

Morris has worked for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Lighthouse Maritime Archaeological Program, which he founded and directed.

Billy Ray is a great archaeologist and will be a real benefit for the people of North Carolina. We wish him the best of luck in this new endeavor!

August 27, 2012

CrabTrap Roundup a Grand Success!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum staffmember August Ellis freeing fish and other marine critters rescued from a derelict crabtrap on Saturday's Roundup and Waterway Cleanup.

The 2012 CrabTrap Roundup and Waterway Cleanup was a great success on Saturday. This event was sponsored and organized by LAMP and the Lighthouse, along with the Tower Club, our new support group made up of young professionals.

From the St. Augustine Record:

Dozens of volunteers searched the Tolomato, Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers as well as other areas and brought their finds back to one of three boat ramps that served as collection sites.

By the end of the day, around 60 volunteers had removed 30 traps and an estimated 1,500 pounds of trash from local waterways, said Brendan Burke, an archaeologist with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, which co-hosted the event. Around a dozen of those traps came from the San Sebastian River.

Lost or abandoned crab traps continue to trap wildlife as long as they are in the water and can cause many fish and other creatures to die, officials said. The traps also clutter the water and can be a hazard for boaters and people.

Fishermen can lose crab traps during storms and other events, Burke said.

“Every derelict crab trap that we removed, we’re saving hundreds if not thousands of marine animals that would have perished inside them,” he said.

Way to go, Brendan and August, for taking the lead in organizing this event, and way to go to the many volunteers from our community who participated in this great waterway cleanup!

August 25, 2012

2012 Crab Trap Roundup & Waterway Cleanup!

Posted by: Brendan Burke


As a sentinel of our waterways the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is proud to announce the 2012 Crab Trap Roundup and Waterway Cleanup! This event, hosted by the Tower Club, a support organization of the Lighthouse, will leave our waterways cleaner, happier, and healthier. See the poster for details and we hope to see you out there on the waters this Saturday! Don't forget too, that there is an informational Captain's Meeting at Conch House Marina on Friday evening from 6:00-8:00pm.

Many thanks to our sponsors, especially the Florida Inland Navigation District, the St. Augustine Port, Waterway, and Beach District, and Conch House Marina & Resort!!

The waterways are divided into three zones with a boat ramp designated for trash collection at each ramp. The northern zone's ramp is the Usina Boat Ramp, the central zone's ramp is the Lighthouse Boat Ramp, and the southern zone's ramp is the Butler Boat Ramp. Click on the maps below the fold to see each zone.

Continue reading "2012 Crab Trap Roundup & Waterway Cleanup!" »

August 21, 2012

Weather Channel Broadcasts Live from the Lighthouse

Posted by: Chuck Meide

On Friday, the Weather Channel came to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum to stage a series of interviews for live broadcast, to celebrate National Lighthouse Day.

From the St. Augustine Record:

The nation’s oldest city got a big dose of national attention Friday morning when The Weather Channel came to town to broadcast live from the St. Augustine Lighthouse, mixing meteorology, maritime history, archaeology and even a bit of ghostly lore.

From 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., The Weather Channel meteorologists Mike Bettes and Maria LaRosa hosted a special edition of the morning show, Your Weather Today, from the courtyard in front of the lighthouse. The episode, entitled “The American Lighthouse,” celebrated lighthouses around the country, but the star of the show was clearly St. Augustine’s familiar black and white striped lighthouse, which was erected in 1874.

Click here to see the broadcast from the Lighthouse, with an interview with a Coast Guard officer about Lighthouse operations and the Coast Guard.

Continue reading "Weather Channel Broadcasts Live from the Lighthouse" »

August 13, 2012

St. Augustine Lighthouse Among Nation's Prettiest

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The Huffington Post website compiled a slideshow of the prettiest lighthouses in America, in honor of National Lighthouse Day last Tuesday. Several pictures of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum were listed, some ranked as high as number 8 best lighthouse photo by viewers. Go check them out!

National Lighthouse Day remembers a Congressional act that established support of lighthouses, buoys, beacons and public piers in 1789.

August 9, 2012

History Out of Shifting Sands . . .

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP divers raised not one but three muskets from the late 1700s Storm Wreck during the 2012 field season.

What a great article came out of the Jacksonville newspaper, the Florida Times Union, last Saturday. I missed it as I was on vacation, but heard all about it when I came back into the office this week and it is online.

From the Times Union:

In 2009, members of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program were aboard their research vessel, the Desmond Valdes, doing a remote sensor survey. They got a noticeable magnetic return.

Divers who investivated found a large cast-iron cooking cauldron and other artifacts, and registered the site under the name Storm Wreck.

The students, interns and volunteers of the program’s field school excavated the immediate area in the summer of 2010. That November, LAMP Director Chuck Meide went out to retrieve equipment left behind.

But the sands had shifted.

In addition to the mooring anchors and lines he was expecting, Meide found a cluster of cannons and a bronze ship’s bell — only 10 or 15 feet north of the original site.

A discovery like this is the reason LAMP exists. It was founded as the
archaeological branch of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. When the lighthouse museum became affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in 2010, it was time for a name change.

“We decided to re-brand ourselves,” said Kathy Fleming, the group’s executive director.

The First Light Maritime Society was born.

Continue reading "History Out of Shifting Sands . . ." »

August 8, 2012

St. Augustine Lighthouse Listed Among Nation's Top Lighthouses

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The Weather Channel just released their list of the top eleven lighthouses in the country as their celebration of our nation's lighthouses for National Lighthouse Day, August 7th. The top choices were chosen by the Weather Channel's Facebook fans, and after tallying hundreds of votes the St. Augustine Lighthouse was listed in the top eleven in the country! Congratulations to the staff of the Lighthouse and LAMP for their part in making our Lighthouse such a great place to visit!

Article on LAMP's 2012 Field School in the Beaches Leader

Posted by: Chuck Meide


A great story on our 2012 Field School ran in the Beaches Leader, a local paper for the Jacksonville Beaches, back on July 24 (in case you are wondering why all of these blog postings are suddenly appearing, our field season has come to a close so we are catching up with all the news we couldn't report while out diving on the boat!)

From the Beaches Leader:

LAMP’s annual summer field school brought 17 college students from across the country to learn archaeology by working on the late 18th century “Storm Wreck.” During the month of June, LAMP continued excavations on this wreck in an attempt to better understand the nature and extent of the shipwreck site, and the date, nationality, and function of the vessel it represents. Archaeology staff and students primarily worked from the research vessel Roper, a former shrimp trawler which is on loan to LAMP from the Institute of Maritime History in the Chesapeake region. This month, LAMP will continue field work but will focus on testing magnetic targets identified through previous years’ survey, in hopes of discovering one or more new shipwreck sites in the vicinity of the historic inlet.

Students were instructed in scientific diving procedures, archaeological recording and excavation, the use of hydraulic probes and induction dredges, marine remote sensing survey and analysis (magnetometer & side scan sonar), artifact collection and documentation and basic conservation laboratory methodology. The field school also hosted an evening lecture series with field school instructors and visiting professionals from various public, private and academic institutions throughout Florida.

A field school is an irreplaceable component in the education of any student pursuing a career in archaeology. Each June, LAMP oversees an intense four-week, accredited educational program, allowing both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to participate in a marine survey and underwater excavation of a historic shipwreck site. In addition to methodological training and academic lectures, students get valuable real-world experience in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork, scientific diving and seamanship and laboratory analysis. LAMP has partnered with a variety of universities, including Flinders University, Florida State University, Syracuse University and Plymouth State University, to organize and implement this four-credit course.

Button May Prove to Be Important Clue to the Identity of the Storm Wreck (UPDATED)

Posted by: Chuck Meide

This button, with its distinctive crown and the letters "RP," was from the uniform of a British Army regiment made up of American colonists loyal to the British crown. A button recently discovered from the Storm Wreck, with a similar crown, could help identify the shipwreck.

I often tell tour groups here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum that many of our discoveries are not made on the seafloor, but in the laboratory. Nothing exemplifies this statement more than a tiny little button that was recently found by one of our volunteers while cleaning away the concretion from the ship's bell. It is a small find, but one which might possibly lead to a positive identity for this shipwreck, and one which is already leading to a better understanding of this mystery ship's date, nationality, and function.

The story of the button broke in a St. Augustine Record front page story on 23 July. We actually discovered the button a week or two earlier.

Continue reading "Button May Prove to Be Important Clue to the Identity of the Storm Wreck (UPDATED)" »

July 16, 2012

Musket Raised From Shipwreck Makes Big Splash in News!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

On Thursday LAMP's team of archaeologists recovered an encrusted flintlock musket from the site of the Storm Wreck, a late 18th century shipwreck that has been the focus of excavation every summer since 2010. Frequent storms, unusual for the summer months, have caused significant delays in this year's fieldwork, by burying the site and by preventing us from being able to work it. It took a few weeks to uncover our grids and get our travel and grid lines back into a usable system, and we have found a number of artifacts becoming exposed due to erosion at what we thought were the boundaries of our site. One of these objects was discovered on the previous Tuesday, by yours truly. After groping around in the dark and feeling the object, I was pretty sure that it was a musket, as it was about the right length and appeared to feature the trigger guard and the remains of the stock in about the right place. Subsequent diving by some of our archaeologists who have worked with historic firearms confirmed its identity, and we brought it up to the surface and back home safely on Friday.

Lots of great news stories have come out of this latest find. Check out some of the links below . . .

Channel 4 story and video

Channel 4 slideshow

Florida Times-Union
(Jacksonville newspaper), a great story by Dan Scanlan

St. Augustine Record story

We even got some interest from Spanish-language outlets, including Que, Yahoo! Espanol, El Confidencial, and Canarias7.

We've been so busy with our summer Field School and field season that we haven't been updating the blog regularly, but stay tuned, we'll have some more updates online soon!

June 4, 2012

2012 Underwater Archaeology Field School

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The 2012 Field School in Maritime Archaeology will run from June 4 to June 29, 2012. Each year LAMP sponsors this internationally acclaimed opportunity for training in maritime and underwater archaeology. Students from universities across the U.S. and abroad will come to learn these specialized skills by working side by side with LAMP archaeologists. Participants will be instructed in scientific diving procedures, archaeological recording and excavation, the use of hydraulic probes and induction dredges, marine remote sensing survey and analysis (magnetometer & side scan sonar), artifact collection and documentation and basic conservation laboratory methodology. The field school will also host an evening lecture series with field school instructors and visiting professionals from various public, private and academic institutions throughout Florida.

Follow the links below for more information, or continue reading after the fold . . .

Click here to see the official webpage for the 2012 Field School, with complete information on activities, lodging, applications, paperwork, etc.

Click here to see an article on the field school in the Jacksonville newspaper, the Florida Times Union.

Continue reading "2012 Underwater Archaeology Field School" »

May 23, 2012

LAMP Hosts New ArchaeoTours

Posted by: Chuck Meide


LAMP has been working hard at developing a new program to share our archaeological discoveries with the public. The new Lost Ships ArchaeoTours program was recently announced in the Jacksonville newspaper, the Florida Times-Union.

From the Times-Union:

Learn more about the lost ships of St. Augustine as the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program hosts Archaeo Tours, a 90-minute tour into parts of the historic light station and maritime archaeology laboratory facilities.

The tours are guided by a lighthouse archaeologist who explores the ships wrecked off the coast of the nation's oldest port. The tours include information on how archaeologists excavate each underwater site as they find artifacts untouched by human hands for centuries.

Information on "Storm Wreck," the program's most recently excavated shipwreck, is also part of the tour as is an insider's look at how these artifacts are conserved.

The tours include a multimedia presentation that dives even deeper underwater to investigate wrecks off the coast of St. Augustine. The historic Keepers' House and the 160-foot-tall lighthouse are open for participants after the tours, as are refreshments.

The Lost Ships Archaeo Tours are held three times per day on Mondays and Fridays. Visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org to review tour times, with others scheduled for groups or large parties with advanced notice. Reservations are required, $48 per ticket, at (904) 829-0745 or www.staugustinelighthouse.org.

For more information, check out the Lost Ships ArchaeoTours page!

St. Augustine Lighthouse Featured in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide

An amusing story that came out in the local press after Al Roker mispronounced the name of our nation's oldest port. The story also happens to feature a number of interviews of tourists and our favorite historical reenactor, James Bullock, that took place here at the Lighthouse.

May 4, 2012

Update from the Teaching With Small Boats Conference!

Posted by: Brendan Burke

I am sitting on the banks of the Puget Sound this evening, waiting for dinner, and enjoying the beautiful scenery of western Washington state. Under my feet is a pebble beach, a log for my butt, behind me is a well ordered row of woody cabins. In front of me is a mile wide stretch of water about 48 degrees but crystal clear and full of sea lions, otters, salmon, dungeness crabs, and gray whales. On the other side is Whidby Island, framed at times by the even more distant but majestic Olympic Mountains. Rising to over 12000 feet, their snowy crags are a reminder of the youthful vigor of the landscape, the restless Pacific Rim. Eagles chatter and whistle from the giant cedar trees and the lapping of the water are all that meets the ears.

No trip to Seattle would be complete without a shot of the Space Needle, but I thought I'd add the flair of the conference to this picture. Superposed on the Space Needle is the mainmast and rig for the schooner Lavengro, a beautiful 1920s Biloxi lugger now sailing Lake Union.

But that us not why I am here. LAMP sent me here to learn from the best institutions in the country who build wooden boats and train young people in solid math and science skills using a philosophy that 'boats build people', not the other way around. Groups from all over the country are here to share their success stories in programming and it has been an astounding success. How do I measure this success? The 80 or so participants who have participated this weekend have kept a remarkable energy going to blend ideas, come up with new ones, and refine existing concepts of how to make our young people better, smarter, and stronger. While we do many of these things at the Lighthouse Museum with our education programming, we are thinking about making the LAMP Boatworks more of a part of this. It has been a successful part of the museum and deserves to share its skills with a broader group.

Continue reading "Update from the Teaching With Small Boats Conference!" »

April 26, 2012

The Bounty Safely Docked in St. Augustine

Posted by: Chuck Meide


We blogged the other day about the impending arrival of the replica tallship Bounty. As of 1:00 pm yesterday, after two weeks at sea, the Bounty crossed through the Bridge of Lions and safely docked at the City Marina. Some of our Lighthouse volunteers, including Maurey Keiser, escorted the proud ship in with his own sailboat, some of us watched from the Bridge, and some of us witnessed the arrival with binoculars from the top of the tower. What an exciting day, and what a beautiful ship!

From the St. Augustine Record:

As the HMS Bounty made its way through the Bridge of Lions early Wednesday afternoon, the crowd of people on the bridge burst into applause. Hundreds of others, stationed all along the waterfront from the Castillo de San Marcos to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, waved and cheered the three-masted wooden vessel as boats of all shapes and types buzzed around the harbor, escorting the ship.

The Bounty will be open for tours Friday through Sunday. Tickets are available at the City Marina.This Saturday marks the 223rd anniversary of the original mutiny on the Bounty, which took place on April 28, 1789.

The St. Augustine Record compiled a great slideshow of the Bounty's arrival, and also this video below. Its great to see a historic sailing ship in our port, and to imagine how for centuries tall masts dotted our harbor like a forest on the water.

April 24, 2012

The Bounty Comes to St. Augustine!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Tomorrow morning, sometime around 0800, the tall ship Bounty should be arriving off the St. Augustine Inlet and preparing to sail into Matanzas Bay. She is a replica of the well-known British naval vessel which saw the infamous mutiny against Captain Bligh in 1789. Drawing 13 feet of water, she will have to wait for the high tide in order to enter the harbor and cross under the Bridge of Lions and dock at the City Marina, where the public can tour her decks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

From the St. Augustine Record:

The HMS Bounty, a replica of one of the most famous ships in the world, was built for the 1962 MGM movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty” starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. The Bounty has also appeared in several other motion pictures over the years, including “Treasure Island,” and two of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies starring Johnny Depp.

The Bounty, which has just begun its 2012 East Coast tour, will come through the St. Augustine Inlet, possibly as early as Wednesday, and tie up at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, where she will be available to the public for tours Friday through Sunday.

Continue reading "The Bounty Comes to St. Augustine!" »

April 19, 2012

Ring Power, with its roots in St. Augustine's maritime industry, celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Diesel Engine Sales Company, or DESCO, one of the largest companies building shrimp trawlers in the world, became the widely recognized and successful Ring Power in 1962. Here are photographs of DESCO employees posing for their 1200th boat launching in the 1960s along with the present-day employees of Ring Power outside the company headquarters at St. John's County World Commerce Center.

Here at the First Light Maritime Society, we have long celebrated the rich history of the shrimping industry centered in St. Augustine (we even had a shrimping float in the Easter Parade one year!) Our port was known for its shrimp boat building, and the most successful of these companies by far was DESCO, or Diesel Engine Sales Company. This company became Ring Power in 1962, and we are pleased to congratulate them on turning 50 years old this year!

You can read more about the company's history and its maritime roots in the great front-page story in the St. Augustine Record. The founder of the company, L.C. "Ring" Ringhaver, worked his way up through the DESCO ranks to become sole owner, and subsequent founder of Ring Power. His youngest son, Randy Ringhaver, now serves as the chairman and president. Mr.Ringhaver is a strong supporter of our community's maritime heritage and the company has provided funding for, among many other community charities, our publication of an upcoming book on St. Augustine's shrimping history--Shrimp Boats Are Coming--written by our partner Ed Long. Another recent donation was made to the museum's collections, a compilation of DESCO company photographs.

April 16, 2012

LAMP Boatworks Update

Posted by: Brendan Burke

The most recent project at the LAMP Boatworks. Foreground left is the Chaisson dory tender, a 17' spritsail skiff to right, and a 1760s ship's yawl in the background.

A quick update, since I’ve been remiss in sending one for a while. I hope this finds you all in kindred spirits and enjoying this fine weather. Things around the boatworks have been heating up this spring and continue to simmer at a solid pace.

Continue reading "LAMP Boatworks Update" »

March 28, 2012

Congratulations to Kathy Fleming, Newest Member of the Florida Historical Commission!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Congratulations to Kathy Fleming, the Executive Director of the First Light Maritime Society, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, and LAMP, for her appointment by Florida's Governor to serve on the Florida Historical Commission! This is a great honor, and great news for maritime heritage fans in Florida. Way to go Kathy!

March 22, 2012

3/22/2012 Chalupa Keel Laying at Fountain of Youth

Posted by: Chuck Meide

On Thursday, 22 March, an event was held at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, north of the Lighthouse on the mainland in St. Augustine. It was a celebration of the start of a new boat construction project. LAMP is supporting this project by providing our partners at the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation and the Fountain of Youth with data from our archaeological and historical research into the traditional Spanish boat known as a Chalupa. Many of the volunteer boatbuilders from LAMP Boatworks will be participating in the project, and several of them along with LAMP's Dr. Sam Turner are spearheading the project.

The program was a great success and you can read more about it in the St. Augustine Record.

March 17, 2012

3/17/2012 Festival: 20th Annual Lighthouse Festival

Posted by: Chuck Meide

What: 20th Annual Lighthouse Festival
When: Saturday, March 17, 2012, from 11 am to 6 pm
Where: St. Augustine Lighthouse
Highlights: Free admission, food, drink, pony rides, bouncy house, live entertainment, archaeology tables with artifact displays, boatbuilding and other crafts for kids, 5K run, and more!

February 21, 2012

LAMP Reacts to Odyssey Treasure Hunting Ruling (UPDATED)

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Check out the First Coast News Report by Clicking the Video Above. The embedded video has been giving us problems, so if you cannot see it above click here to go directly to the First Coast News story and video

[UPDATED: As of Thursday, February 23, 2012, Spain has taken custody of the coins and other artifacts salvaged from the Spanish warship Mercedes wreck site from treasure hunting firm Odyssey in Tampa, Florida. Click here for English translation. Click here for Original Story in Spanish.]

[UPDATED: On Friday, February 24, at 12:30, the planes departed the U.S. with the coins and other artifacts on board, bound for their original 1804 destination, Spain. Click here for the story.]

Yesterday we received a call from Jessica Clark, First Coast News TV reporter, asking us how we felt about the recent court ruling regarding the treasure hunting company, Odyssey Marine, who had salvaged some 17 tons of silver coins from the 1804 wreck of the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. This was a controversial action, as Odyssey is a commercial treasure hunting company who does not operate to internationally accepted archaeological standards. Spain had pressed in U.S. courts for the return of all recovered objects, insisting that as a Spanish military vessel a salvor had no legal right to take anything from the Mercedes without prior approval from the Spanish government, and a Federal Judge agreed with them. What's more, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Odyssey's appeal, so the ruling is final, and Spain's cultural property must be returned to them, where it will not be sold but will go on display in one or more museums. As I write this, Spain is preparing to send a fleet of military aircraft to Tampa to repatriate the coins.

Click on the above video embed to see the First Coast News story, or click here to read the written version and check out a slideshow of artifacts recovered from our ongoing excavation of the Storm Wreck.

Continue reading "LAMP Reacts to Odyssey Treasure Hunting Ruling (UPDATED)" »

The Apple Jack and the Caravel (and a Clarification)

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The Apple Jack is one of the last wooden-hulled shrimp boats to have been built here in St. Augustine, by the famous DESCO shipyard. Until recently, Apple Jack could be seen out shrimping local waters, but circumstances have lead to the end of its shrimping career. Normally this would mean her equipment would be stripped and sold off, and her hull broken up. As a representative of the thriving shrimp trawler-building industry that was so important to St. Augustine during much of the 20th century, and one of the last working St. Augustine-built boats to ply St. Augustine waters, this is a historical vessel and one that is well worth preserving.

On 30 January the St. Augustine Record reported that a local group wanted to convert the hull of the Apple Jack into a replica of a 16th century caravel to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing on the Florida coast (just a little to the north of us here in St. Augustine). It has been reported that a 20th century trawler hull is virtually identical to that of a 16th century caravel; nautical archaeologists specializing in 16th century Iberian ship construction would certainly disagree, given the evolution of the caravel form and rig in the 15th and 16th centuries and the ancestry of the St. Augustine trawler which can be traced to Greek boatbuilders emigrated to Florida in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That debate is academic, of course, and what may be true is that any effort to prevent the immediate destruction of the Apple Jack may provide a respite necessary to eventually restore her. Original equipment from the Apple Jack is already being removed and auctioned off, diluting her historical integrity, so the window of saving her is limited. Conversion of the Apple Jack into a modern interpretation of a caravel would entail some significant structural changes, further diluting her original historical integrity, but the group spearheading this effort hopes to eventually convert the hull back and fully restore the historic shrimp boat after the 500th anniversary celebration. A more recent story, in the 20 February edition of the Record, has followed up on this project, and stated that plans are for the fully restored Apple Jack to "be on display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse."

This was an inaccurate statement. It is not that we are not interested in seeing the Apple Jack fully restored and on display to the public, but this kind of commitment is a serious undertaking that requires significant resources to do properly, and we can't responsibly agree to such a commitment without ensuring we are able to follow through.

Below the fold is a statement from our Executive Director, recently sent to the St. Augustine Record, to clarify our position on the proposed restoration of the Apple Jack, and its proposed temporary conversion to a caravel.

Continue reading "The Apple Jack and the Caravel (and a Clarification)" »

February 13, 2012

LAMP Mourns the Passing of a Friend

Posted by: Brendan Burke

Dr. David C. Switzer, 1934-2012

Dr. David Switzer, professor emeritus at Plymouth State University, passed away this past weekend at his home in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Dr. Switzer was, and will always be, a true friend of each one of us here at LAMP. His warm smile and energy made his students and peers feel at ease during field work, lab work, or in the classroom. At the same time, he was constantly teaching, handing down knowledge in the manner of a true scholar. From his native Maine to the Falkland Islands, and even the Mediterranean, Dr. Switzer led expeditions that trained generations of today's maritime archaeologists. He was a research associate/instructor here at LAMP but moreover a good friend and fellow scholar.

Continue reading "LAMP Mourns the Passing of a Friend" »

February 3, 2012

Get behind the scenes...

Posted by: Brendan Burke

Jacksonville.com published a nice piece about our behind the scenes tours here at the Museum. If you haven't take one of the tours, they are well worth it. See how the museum works, how we are learning about our past from artifacts buried in the seafloor, and learn about the many things which go on behind the veil to keep our history alive and exciting. Even if you have visited the lighthouse before, or recently, come back for this experience. Visit our webpage too, for more information on how to get involved, for more on our other tours and opportunities, and learn how to contribute to our museum. Read on for more information!

CLICK HERE for the link.

Many thanks to Dan Scanlan for this nice article!

January 30, 2012

Galveztown replica ship in the news!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP Boatworks chief boatbuilder Maury Keiser (right) and St. Augustine resident Roy Jaeger pose in front of the Galveztown's erect frames in Malaga, Spain.

From the Houston Chronicle:

GALVESTON - A visit from a replica of an 18th-century brig built from oak trees felled by Hurricane Ike is being delayed more than a year because of a complete redesign based on newly discovered documents.

Construction of the Galveztown in the Nereo Shipyard on the Spanish coast was halted because the architect found more details about the original design of the ship sailed by the Spanish governor of colonial Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, who mapped Galveston Bay and became the namesake of the island.

A keel designed for a 68-foot on-deck length had already been laid last year when naval architect Francisco Fernandez announced that he had learned that the original on-deck length was 56 feet, a full 12-feet shorter than originally thought.

Fernandez, reached by phone in Madrid, said he discovered the original dimensions by piecing together information from documents in the United States, Spain and Great Britain.

Continue reading "Galveztown replica ship in the news!" »

November 21, 2011

Cannon Unveiling in the News!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

The two cannons raised by LAMP archaeologists this summer, a 4-pounder cannon and a 9-pounder carronade, were revealed to the public last Friday.

The St. Augustine Record ran a great front page story on our cannons and our special Unveiling Event:

Archaeologists unveiled two centuries-old cannons, one with a very important inscription, at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum Friday night.

“It’s been hidden away for centuries,” said archaeologist Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Progam (LAMP), as he awaited the unveiling. “It hasn’t been touched for centuries.”

The cannons rested under a tent Friday night in the courtyard under the towering St. Augustine Lighthouse. They were unveiled amid a crowd historians, archaeologists, professors and others at an invitation-only event.

The cannon unveiling was a resounding success! Over a hundred people attended as we pulled back the sheets to reveal for the first time our two guns, cleaned of concretion. While the long gun did not feature any inscriptions, the carronade has proved to be a really unique piece. Its right trunnion bore the year the gun was cast, 1780, and the mark "9 P," which stands for 9-pounder (meaning this gun fired a cannon ball weighing 9 lbs). As it turns out, we now believe this is the second-earliest surviving carronade in the world (only one known carronade pre-dates it, in the collection of the Tower of London). It may also be the only surviving 9-pounder carronade, according to at least one source we have found. This carronade seems truly unique for a number of reasons--some of its features are very rare and reflect the fact that it is a very early example of what at the time was a new and high-tech weapon.

The story also made it into the Florida Times-Union, click here to read more about it.

October 26, 2011

LAMP's Cannon Raising Selected as CNN's Top Three Shipwreck Stories for 2011!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Check out CNN's top three shipwreck news stories for the year--our raising of two cannons from the late 1700s Storm Wreck made the top three list on the "Gotta Watch" section of CNN's "This Just In" news blog! Click here to watch the CNN coverage of our cannon raising, or to see footage of the other two stories!

October 14, 2011

"Search for the Jefferson Davis" Documentary to Debut on National Archaeology Day at the Orlando Film Festival

Posted by: Chuck Meide


On Monday there was a great story in the St. Augustine Record announcing the debut of our documentary "The Search for the Jefferson Davis" at this year's Orlando Film Festival, which will be held on October 19-23. The documentary, produced by Pepe Productions whose director and crew came and filmed our archaeological team in June 2009, is an exciting glimpse into what goes into an archaeological search for a historic shipwreck of national significance. You can read more about the Jefferson Davis, and our ongoing search for her (the most successful privateer of the Civil War), here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The debut screening will coincide with National Archaeology Day, celebrated in both the U.S. and Canada.

We are really proud of the documentary and looking forward to its first public viewing. For those interested in seeing it at the Festival, the documentary will be shown at 2:10 p.m. Oct. 22 in Theatre 12 at Cinema City, Orlando, Florida.

Click here to see more information on the documentary debut posted on American Institute of Archaeology's National Archaeology Day Events webpage.

August 26, 2011

Early Spanish Fort Discovered by City Archaeologist!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

St. Augustine's City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, on right, oversees a local volunteer during excavations of a newly discovered site believed to be one of the settlement's early wooden forts.

St. Augustine's City Archaeologist, Carl Halbirt is a great friend and colleague, and one of the most productive and knowledgeable archaeologists I've had the pleasure of working with. Congratulations to him on one of his greatest discoveries: the apparent remains of one of St. Augustine's early wooden forts, dating perhaps to the late 1500s. This story made a big splash when it hit the front page of the St. Augustine Record the other day, and rightly so. If this site does indeed prove to be what we think it is, it will be one of the most significant finds ever made in this most archaeologically significant of American cities.

St. Augustine City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt and his team believe they are on the verge of a major discovery connected to the city's colonial Spanish history.

Since January, Halbirt has been digging on a parcel in the back of the Spanish Quarter hoping that the site may be where once stood one of the nine Spanish wooden forts that preceded the Castillo de San Marcos, the 17th-century coquina fort that sits in majestic silence across the road.

"Although it's mostly conjecture at this point, this could be one of the most significant archaeological finds we've made in St. Augustine," Halbirt said. "To date, we've never found any physical evidence of any of the wooden forts that we know the Spanish built here before the Castillo."

Continue reading "Early Spanish Fort Discovered by City Archaeologist!" »

August 17, 2011

St. Augustine Lighthouse Listed In Top Nine Best Lighthouse Climbs in the Country!!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History has recently announced its list of the top nine best lighthouse climbs in America. Not that anyone here was surprised, but our St. Augustine Lighthouse was included in this list of the best of the best! The Fyddeye Guide is a comprehensive directory for tall ships, lighthouses, historic warships, maritime museums, and other attractions that preserve, protect, and interpret our nation's maritime history. Thanks to the Fyddeye editors for recognizing our beautiful lighthouse and our unparalleled visitor experience, itself a testament to the hard work of our dedicated Lighthouse team.

Follow this link to see what eight other lighthouses made the cut!

August 2, 2011

The Wealth of Knowledge

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP used the research vessel Roper, on loan from the Institute of Maritime History, during its June field school, when a team of archaeologists, college students, and volunteers excavated an 18th century shipwreck and raised two cannons.

A few weeks ago, while on the research vessel Roper while conducting shipwreck survey offshore the Matanzas Inlet, I participated in a phone interview with a writer from St. Augustine Underground. She had wanted to write an article on archaeology and treasure hunting in St. Augustine. I immediately saw red flags when I first heard this, as the confusion between these two contradictory practices is a common misunderstanding among members of the public. Underwater archaeology is very different from treasure hunting. The former involves systematic scientific investigations of shipwrecks or other maritime sites to seek knowledge about the past, while the latter is concerned with salvaging shipwrecks in search of materials that can be sold for a profit. Careful recording, documentation, and forensic analyses--procedures which cost time and money and prevent archaeology from being a profitable venture in a commercial sense--ensure that as a site is literally destroyed through excavation, scientists can maximize the amount of knowledge gained which can be received in no other way. Over the last few decades treasure hunting in Florida has, alas, resulted in the loss of a vast amount of knowledge that could have been saved, if archaeology had been conducted.

“The objects to us aren’t as valuable as the context,” he said. “Treasure hunters typically don’t give a damn about this. They care about the shiny stuff.”

For archeologists, the sole purpose of finding artifacts is to learn more about the people who used them. They are strongly against the selling of any artifacts no matter if it’s gold coins or a chipped dinner plate. Archeologists are after information, not objects.

On the other hand, it’s common knowledge that treasure hunters are in the business to make a profit or simply grow their personal collection. And they are frowned upon by archeologists.

“Treasure hunters are typically not interested in information,” Meide said. “They’re interested in stuff.”

Continue reading "The Wealth of Knowledge" »

July 18, 2011

Conservation of Cannons from the Storm Wreck

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Check out this great story on the conservation of our cannons from the St. Augustine Record:

Archaeologists believe the cannons sailed on a ship sometime between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and sank along with a ship off the St. Augustine bar, which is located within eyesight of the St. Augustine Beach Pier. Everything else is a secret covered by cemented shells, ceramic pieces, a portion of a plate and a brick that remain embedded in the encrustation.

The cannons will go through extensive treatments over the next two years to remove the encrustation, a combination of iron corrosion product and sea sediment, that will eventually expose the marking that will show the cannons' origins, said Cox.

July 7, 2011

African-American Maritime Hero

Posted by: Chuck Meide


One hundred and fifty years ago today, African-American steward William Tillman on the schooner SJ Waring, which had been captured by the infamous Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis, single-handedly retook his ship, becoming one of the first noted black heroes of the Civil War. This story was highlighted in the St. Augustine Record today, and it one of many told in the recently released documentary film The Search for the Jefferson Davis, which follows the research of LAMP archaeologists as they seek out the historical stories and physical remains of this ship, lost off the coast of St. Augustine 150 years ago.

St. Augustine Record:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Union's first black hero of the Civil War wasn't one of the African-American soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, famously depicted in the 1989 film "Glory," but rather a merchant ship's cook who took up arms to prevent being sold into slavery after a Confederate raider captured his vessel.

At least that's the reckoning of some historians and a pair of upstate New York-based documentary producers who have included William Tillman's story in their new film on the short-but-prolific wartime record of the brig Jefferson Davis, a Southern privateer that seized several Union ships in the opening months of the war.

"He certainly ranks among the top half-dozen African-American heroes of the Civil War as far as I'm concerned," said Gerald Henig, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, in the San Francisco Bay area.

The entire article is worth a read, and if you think that's a great story wait until you see the documentary. It is available for sale in the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum gift shop, and its really an excellent show.

UPDATED: Since this original blog posting, another great article on this story came out in the New York Times. Here's an excerpt below, and click the link to the original article, its a good one.

Tillman’s heroic action struck a responsive chord among a Northern population that was reeling from the news of the Union defeat at Bull Run on the same day the Waring arrived in New York. The New-York Tribune wrote, “To this colored man was the nation indebted for the first vindication of its honor on the sea.” Another publication reported that the achievement drew “unstinted praise from all parties, even those who are usually awkward in any other vernacular than derision of the colored man.” At Barnum’s Museum Tillman was the center of an “attractive gaze to daily increasing thousands” and “pictorials vied with each other in portraying his features, and in graphic delineations of the scene on board the brig.” Several months later the federal government awarded Tillman the sum of $6,000 ($154,000 in 2011 dollars) as prize-money for the capture of the schooner.

July 1, 2011

LAMP partners with FPAN for Heritage Awareness Diver Seminar

Posted by: Chuck Meide

In late May LAMP Director Chuck Meide accompanied FPAN Northeast's Director Sarah Miller and Outreach Coordinator Amber Grafft-Weiss to assist teaching the Heritage Awareness Diver seminar sponsored by the State of Florida, FPAN, and NOAA. The story was picked up by the Historic City News:

In their latest adventure, Sarah and Amber suited up for submerged resources training as part of a Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar aimed at providing dive instructors with all the information, tools, and resources needed to teach heritage awareness as a specialty course.

Accompanying the students was Chuck Meide, a local underwater and maritime archaeologist who currently serves as director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program; the research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

Continue reading "LAMP partners with FPAN for Heritage Awareness Diver Seminar" »

June 30, 2011

Cannons raised from the deep makes big news splash!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

On June 28, 2011, a date which we at LAMP will remember for a long time, we successfully raised two cannons from the Storm Wreck. These two guns, along with at least four others, had laid silent on this shipwreck since the Revolutionary War. Raising two was an ambitious goal, one that had motivated us for the duration of the field school for the entire month of June.

Needless to say, bringing up two cannons brought a lot of media attention. The story was picked up and reported by CNN and also NBC broadcast stations across the country, not to mention the local and regional media. Below are some links to these stories.

Click here to see a link to the news videos from CNN and two Jacksonville stations, First Coast News and Fox News.

Click here to see the story and video by Jacksonville's paper, the Florida Times-Union.

Click here to see the story and two videos by Jacksonville's First Coast News.

Click here to read the story in the St. Augustine Record.

May 11, 2011

LAMP's Search for Shipwrecks Highlighted in Jacksonville Magazine

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Trinite in storm.jpg

A great story recently appeared in Jacksonville Magazine thanks to writer Alison Trinidad, who interviewed LAMP staff and our colleague at the Center for Historical Archaeology Dr. John De Bry. The article focuses on the 1565 loss of Ribault's French fleet, which had made the initial attempt to colonize the First Coast. The destruction of Ribault's ships by hurricane paved the way for Pedro Menendez' successful and permanent settlement at St. Augustine. These shipwrecks thus played a pivotal role in American history, and as we approach the 450th anniversary of their loss, their discovery would be the holy grail of maritime archaeology in Northeast Florida:

"This is an event that changed the course of history," says John de Bry, an Indialantic-based historian and archaeologist working on the search. If the Spanish had not successfully colonized, we might be living in a different Florida."

"Its a timely topic," adds Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse's research arm, known as LAMP. "We know that the fleet was scattered south of St. Augustine to as far as Cape Canaveral. That's a huge area to cover. It would take years and years to search, but it would be nice to by 2015."

LAMP, or Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, routinely conducts shipwreck surveys near and around the nation's oldest port, but the search for Ribault's sunken fleet would take them into uncharted waters. "All our work here has been done and focused in St. Augustine," Meide says. "We're used to day trips. Logistically, its quite different for us."

Continue reading "LAMP's Search for Shipwrecks Highlighted in Jacksonville Magazine" »

April 20, 2011

"What is it???" Wednesday: Maritime Edition

Posted by: Chuck Meide

If you haven't ever seen it, the "What is it???" Wednesday is a great weekly posting on The Dirt on Public Archaeology blog maintained by our regional FPAN center. FPAN stands for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and they are great partners of ours here in Northeast Florida. An artifact recovered by LAMP from the Storm Wreck is highlighted in this week's feature, check it out here!

Maybe you will be the one to answer the age-old question: "What is it???" (and win an FPAN t-shirt!)

March 31, 2011

Pier 17 Benefit for Lighthouse and LAMP!

Posted by: Brendan Burke


Pier 17 Marine, Inc. has been supplying boaters in Jacksonville and the south for many decades. Their community service and neighborliness has been a mark of their service to the area and as everyone who has shopped there knows, friendliness and good customer service is their trademark. Boaters also know too, that if they have an obscure part that needs replacing and have exhausted all other resources, Pier 17 will have it. Cynthia Seagrave, owner of Pier 17 has an annual sale, ranging from 48%-84% discounts throughout the store. The sale starts on April 4th and runs through the 8th. A nautical flea market is hosted on Saturday and is in the parking lot for Pier 17 Marine, so be sure to go and see good deals, both old and new!

Each year, Pier 17 Marine selects a nonprofit to support for each day of the sale. This year, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum/LAMP has been selected as the sponsored nonprofit for Saturday!! We are very excited, and grateful to have been gifted such a nice opportunity. Thank you Pier 17 Marine!! We will have a display table set up for the event as well as the Susan skiff on display, our most recently completed LAMP Boatworks boat. Be sure to get your tickets to take a chance in our drawing to win this handsome little wooden boat.

Pier 17 Marine is located at 4619 Roosevelt Blvd, Jacksonville. It is right beside the Rt. 17 Ortega River Bridge, and adjacent to Sadler Point Marina. See you there!

January 24, 2011

Ship's bell unveiling in the news

Posted by: Chuck Meide

From the St. Augustine Record:

As a large crowd of people peeked around one another Sunday to watch the event happening about 20 yards beyond her, Marie Valdes stared almost straight up at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, following her 2-year-old grandson, Desmond in pointing at its beacon.

About 150 people eagerly watched Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program Archeological Conservator Starr Cox carefully chip crustations and debris from the bronze bell of a ship sunk a few miles off the St. Augustine Inlet more than two centuries ago. The bell was lifted from a water-filled crate in which it had been kept untouched since December.

Sought was an inscription the lighthouse staff hopes will help identify the ship discovered in the summer of 2009. Excavation began last summer.

The story was also carried by Jacksonville's paper, the Florida Times-Union.

November 17, 2010

Flintlock Pistol Discovery Gets More Press--with Video!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP Archaeological Conservator Starr Cox prepares a concretion for CAT scanning at the Flagler Hospital Imaging Center.

Our most recent discovery, that of a flintlock pistol from the 18th century Storm Wreck, generated a lot of attention in the local and regional media. This weekend, another story came out in the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville's newspaper. In addition to the print story, the Times-Union has put together a video which is available through the link above, or else by clicking below to see the rest of this blog entry.

Continue reading "Flintlock Pistol Discovery Gets More Press--with Video!" »

November 9, 2010

Discovery of Flintlock Pistol in the News!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


We have gotten some great press lately regarding our recent discovery of a flintlock pistol from the Storm Wreck, discovered and excavated by LAMP archaeologists off St. Augustine. The wreck dates to the colonial era, to perhaps between 1740 and 1780, a period of time which spans both the First Spanish and British Periods of Florida's history.

The local newspaper, the St. Augustine Record, ran a story in this morning's paper, on the front page below the fold:

"We were yelling," said Chuck Meide, archaeological director for the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program. "It was one of those moments. A moment of discovery."

The discovery was a gentleman's pocket pistol concealed in a concretion, a concrete-like mass that forms around metal artifacts as they rust in the water.

"Our eyes were instantly drawn to (the pistol)," Meide said. The pistol was one of several items that ended "stuck" together. Other artifacts included a large iron spike, lots of small lead shot known as bird shot ("really, really tiny"), an iron hook, two ring-like objects and a disk of metal.

Continue reading "Discovery of Flintlock Pistol in the News!" »

November 4, 2010

Trawling through St. Augustine's History

Posted by: Chuck Meide


LAMP archaeologist Brendan Burke has just published an article on St. Augustine's shrimping and shrimp boat building heritage in Florida Scuba News:.

Plodding up and down the coast with their outstretched arms, the shrimp trawler has become a seaside icon throughout the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Painters, poets, writers, and musicians have recorded shrimp trawlers to feed our nostalgic interest in harvesting the sea, but little has been done to record the history of shrimping, the boats, and the families who built and operated them.

St. Augustine doesn’t claim to be the birthplace of modern shrimping. Fernandina, Florida, has that title, but for much of the 20th century St. Augustine was the shrimp boat capital of the country.

Click here to read the entire article at Florida Scuba News. Its a short piece and a great read, well worth it!

October 26, 2010

Radio Interview Highlights a Recent LAMP Project

Posted by: Brendan Burke

The Institute for Maritime History was highlighted on WAMU, American University's radio station. Bill Toti, a project leader with IMH, shared the desk with Dr. Susan Langley, Maryland's State Underwater Archaeologist and Dr. Esther White, Director of Archaeology at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Click on the following link to listen!


August 30, 2010

LAMP research highlighted in Professional Surveyor Magazine

Posted by: Chuck Meide


LAMP archaeologist Brendan Burke recently published an article in Professional Surveyor Magazine:

Looting shipwreck sites in many countries is illegal, and strict legislation is in place to protect the publicly owned, submerged resources. In Florida, shipwreck looting can be a felony with heavy fines and prison sentencing. Moreover, after being looted, shipwreck sites lose their integrity as intact sites of cultural value.

To monitor these sites, LAMP, the archaeological and historical research division of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, purchased a Klein 3900 Search and Recovery sidescan sonar as part of our ongoing First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, funded by Florida’s Division of Historical Resources. It has been used to monitor sites in northeast Florida as well as several other locations along Florida’s coast. The sonar unit can generate an image of known wreck sites on a regular basis to ensure their integrity and security.

Its a great article and a quick read, be sure to read the whole thing here.

July 15, 2010

Great Press Coverage for Cauldron Raising!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

For those of you who haven't heard, LAMP archaeologists yesterday raised a cauldron from an 18th century shipwreck off St. Augustine. It came up without any problems and is a fine artifact in great shape which promises to reveal many more secrets. We invited a lot of press to cover the event, and they all did a great job with some great stories. First Coast News (TV12) did a great story on the raising of the cauldron, to watch it click the link above.

Links to more news stories and videos are below . . .

Continue reading "Great Press Coverage for Cauldron Raising!" »

July 6, 2010

St. Augustine Archaeologists Find Colonial Shipwreck

Posted by: Beau Phillips

We've gotten lots of great press regarding our recent exciting discovery of a colonial period shipwreck, nicknamed the "Storm Wreck." The video above is by Jessica Clark of First Coast News.

Vic Micolucci WJXT 4 News4Jax also did a great story! In addition to video they have a slideshow at the same link.

Dee Registre of Action News Jax (TV 47) also ran a fabulous story on the Saturday evening newscast.

In print media, the St. Augustine Record ran the story as the as the front-page headline.

Daytona Beach News-Journal

The story was also picked up by AOL News and various other media groups.

We believe the Storm Wreck dates to the 1700s, based on the limited types of artifacts recovered by Lighthouse archaeologists to date. Stay tuned to hear more about our discoveries on this exciting wreck, which is only the second colonial-era shipwreck ever discovered in the waters of Northeast Florida, and possibly the oldest.

June 11, 2010

Smithsonian has a new Maritime Partner

Posted by: Beau Phillips

Posted on StAugustine.com: June 11, 2010 - 12:12am
St. Augustine Record Editorial

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is a newly accepted partner of the Smithsonian. That simple statement leads a news release about the Lighthouse's newest affiliation.

Just saying Smithsonian and the Lighthouse Museum in the same sentence elevates our landmark attraction to almost rare air. For sure, it allows the Lighthouse access to Smithsonian museum artifacts and exhibit pieces that very few would see unless they traveled to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Museum Director Kathy Fleming said the affiliation has been a museum goal for years. It's an honor to join such a prestigious group -- one of only 13 in Florida and one of 160-plus museums and cultural organizations in 40 states, Panama and Puerto Rico since its establishment in 1996. The benefit of access to the Smithsonian's collections is certainly enough of a draw but added to that is the opportunity for bringing Smithsonian educational programming to our community.

Continue reading "Smithsonian has a new Maritime Partner" »

June 9, 2010

International Partnership Gets Help from Galveston

Posted by: Beau Phillips

By Harvey Rice
June 8, 2010, 9:22PM

GALVESTON — Sam Turner had no idea where he was going to get enough live oak to supply Spanish shipwrights building a replica of the 1779 brig Galveztown, named after Galveston, Texas.

Then Hurricane Ike swamped the city Sept. 13, 2008, killing an estimated 40,000 trees with salt water.

“This project got kicked off in May 2008, and Ike hit in September, and the connection was made that there is a lot of wood there,” said Turner, archeology director for the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum in St. Augustine, Fla.

Continue reading "International Partnership Gets Help from Galveston" »

May 25, 2010

"Building Boats"

Posted by: Beau Phillips

Read the full story and view John Pemberton's great photos.

May 21, 2010

LAMP TV Interviews

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Kathleen McCormick, Director of Collections and Conservation and TV celebrity!

A week or two ago a production crew from Platforms, the Life-Lifting News Program for Women, came to visit the Lighthouse and conducted interviews with Chuck Meide, LAMP Director, and Kathleen McCormick, Director of Collections and Conservation. They're pretty good--check them out at the links below:

Platforms interview with Chuck Meide

Platforms interview with Kathleen McCormick

Thanks to Shivaun Palmer and the rest of the Platforms crew!

December 4, 2009

LAMP Boatwright Visits Galveztown Under Construction in Malaga, Spain

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP Boatworks chief boatbuilder Maury Keiser (right) and St. Augustine resident Roy Jaeger pose in front of the Galveztown's erect frames in Malaga, Spain.

One of our more exciting international partnerships is that with the Astilleros Nereo, a shipyard and maritime museum in Malaga, Spain. The shipyard is building a full-size replica of the Revolutionary War ship Galveztown, which played a critical role in the battle that switched Florida from British to Spanish control at the end of the Revolution. LAMP archaeologists provided archaeological data to inform the Malaga shipwrights as they designed the vessel, and our volunteers at LAMP Boatworks are just beginning to build one of two yawls, or ship's boats, to accompany the Galveztown on her goodwill American tour which is scheduled to begin with the trans-Atlantic voyage to St. Augustine.

LAMP's chief boatwright, Maury Keiser, headed to Spain on holiday this week and made it a point to visit the Astilleros Nereo shipyard. While there, he got a first-hand look at the Galveztown on the stocks, and got some great press as well.

Continue reading "LAMP Boatwright Visits Galveztown Under Construction in Malaga, Spain" »

October 26, 2009

Judyth Piazza chats with Brendan Burke

Posted by: Brendan Burke

The replica Nina after arrival to St. Augustine.

Remember the arrival of the Nina and Pinta here in St. Augustine on May 9th? Judyth Piazza and her radio show The American Perspective on the Student Operated Press (theSOP.com) interviewed LAMP's Brendan Burke that day and the interview has recently posted. Click the link below to follow to theSOP.com's website and listen!


October 15, 2009

City Archaeologist digs 16th century site in the Plaza

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Congratulations to our friend and colleague Carl Halbirt, the City Archaeologist of St. Augustine, for a successful dig in the Plaza!

October 3, 2009

Radio show highlights Lighthouse & LAMP!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Back on July 25, Kathy Fleming (Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum) and myself woke up pretty early on a Saturday to join Matt Jeffs, a local radio celebrity on 1240 AM WFOY whose morning show Airborne with Matt Jeffs is really fun to listen to. He has all kinds of interesting speakers from the St. Augustine region, and at least once a month he has on a local archaeologist. Apparently Kathy and I have faces that were built for radio, because not only is this broadcast out on the airwaves, but via a webcam it is broadcast on the internet. We talked about all of the great programs at the Lighthouse and gave an update on the shipwreck LAMP was excavating over the summer months, complete with a bucket full of wet artifacts . . . you can watch the whole thing below!

Continue reading "Radio show highlights Lighthouse & LAMP!" »

July 25, 2009

Using Sonar Mosaics to Protect Cultural Heritage in Our Nation's Oldest Port: New Article in International Ocean Systems Magazine by LAMP Archaeologist

Posted by: Chuck Meide

SonarWiz.MAP + SBP software image showing one of the North Beach Railroad abutments along the Tolomato River and debris associated with its destruction during the mid-20th century.

LAMP archaeologist Brendan Burke just published an article in the July/August 2009 International Ocean Systems Magazine, "the Magazine for Ocean Professionals" (volume 13, number 4). The title of the article is Wreck Protection: Using Sonar Mosaics to Protect U.S. Cultural Heritage, and you can read it online by clicking here. Congratulations Brendan, for producing a great article that will spread news of LAMP's work here in St. Augustine to our colleagues in the broader marine science industry.

June 22, 2009

LAMP Field School in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide

This photo was taken by St. Augustine Record reporter Daron Dean when he visited our excavation site on Friday. Also on hand were a film crew from Pepe Productions, including a Flagler College intern (with camera) and the film's director (helping steady her) working on an upcoming documentary.

We are always happy when our archaeological work gets local press attention, and last Sunday we were treated to a great front page story in the St. Augustine Record written by reporter Marcia Lane.

Continue reading "LAMP Field School in the News" »

April 7, 2009

LAMP Archaeologists Rescue 100-year old Alligator Farm Logboat

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Friday was an exciting day! LAMP archaeologists joined a team of St. Johns County scientists to recover a 20-ft long, 100-year old historic dugout canoe from the alligator pit at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. The boat had been sitting on the ground, exposed to the elements and to the activity of large alligators (one of which made her nest against the boat) for several years. We visited the boat the Monday before, and observed that it was clearly suffering heavy deterioration, which is why Alligator Farm officials were happy to trade it to the St. Augustine Lighthouse in return for another boat, a historic flatboat replica made by the volunteers at LAMP Boatworks.

Continue reading "LAMP Archaeologists Rescue 100-year old Alligator Farm Logboat" »

December 12, 2008

Hunt for the Alligator Makes the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide


In September, I got a phone call from Dr. Roger Smith, Florida's state underwater archaeologist. He asked if we could go take a look at a recently reported wreck site, and put us in touch with retired meteorologist and avocational historian Dan Smith (no relation). Mr. Smith has conducted an immense amount of research related to a late 19th century steamboat called the Alligator, which indicates the sternwheeler was lost on the east side of Crescent Lake, south of us in Flagler County. A trip to the wreck site proved that it was a very interesting wreck, not only to us but to several news agencies.

Continue reading "Hunt for the Alligator Makes the News" »

October 24, 2008

Mystery Shipwreck Identified

Posted by: Chuck Meide

The Fortuna II, a 65' long shrimp boat owned by the Versaggi family, came to grief on this stretch of Ponte Vedra Beach during a fierce north wind and "mountainous seas" in 1938. LAMP archaeologists recently discovered the remains of a shipwreck here, and our working hypothesis is that probably the wreckage is all that is left of this 38-ton shrimping vessel.

Many of you saw that LAMP was in the news two weeks ago for our most recent shipwreck discovery. At the time we thought the wreck could date to as early as the 1800s, though as is often the case more investigation was needed in order to gain some more clues and firm up the wreck's identity. In this case, further investigation did the trick, but in the library, not in the surf.

Continue reading "Mystery Shipwreck Identified" »

October 8, 2008

Newly Discovered Shipwreck gets LAMP in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide

LAMP recently confirmed the discovery of a shipwreck on the coast of Ponte Vedra Beach, north of St. Augustine. A local surfer, also a Fish and Wildlife Officer who we have gotten to know from our time spent on the water, came across an unknown object in the surf. After having talked to LAMP archaeologists about the importance of protecting shipwrecks in state waters, he thought this just might be a wreck--and after a recent visit we confirmed it!

When we visited the wreck again today, Jessica Clark of Jacksonville's Channel 12 First Coast News came out to do a great story. In this heavy surf, its a terrible challenge to locate and inspect the exposed sections of wreckage, as you can see in the video (check out the scene where Sam is totally wiped out by a wave!) All in all, a great day of scientific inquiry, and a great day on the beach!


May 26, 2008

In the News: LAMP Keelhauling gets Good Press!

Posted by: Chuck Meide

Anastasia Park rangers and LAMP archaeologists carefully remove sand from around a shipwrecked keel timber before removing it from the beach for preservation in the laboratory. Photo courtesy of the St. Augustine Record

Last Thursday a great article appeared in the local paper, the St. Augustine Record.

The wooden keel of a 19th century merchant ship that wrecked on a St. Johns County beach nearly 200 years ago was recovered Wednesday, according to marine archaeologists.

Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program, said the heavily weathered keel was first recorded on Anastasia State Park in 2004, but Florida Park Service personnel reported recently that a piece of the keel had been sawn off by an unknown person.

LAMP stepped in to ensure there was no further damage to the relic.

Continue reading "In the News: LAMP Keelhauling gets Good Press!" »

September 11, 2007

St. Augustine Shrimping Heritage in the News

Posted by: Chuck Meide

The First Coast of Florida, in addition to being the first U.S. coast to be settled by Europeans, was the first coast to foster a commercial shrimping industry. Spreading from Fernandina to St. Augustine in the early 20th century, following the expansion of the railroad built by capitalist Henry Flagler, the nascent commercial shrimping and shrimpboat-building industries were dominated by a number of innovative families of Mediterranean descent--including the Versaggi, the Poli, the Salvadore, and the Xynides families.

1947 photograph of the shrimp boat Silent Night cruising before the 17th century Spanish fortification Castillo de San Marcos, taken during the annual blessing of the fleet celebration. Image courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection, State Library and Archives of Florida.

Continue reading "St. Augustine Shrimping Heritage in the News" »

August 6, 2007

LAMP Research Gets Good Press!

Posted by: Chuck Meide


Since the start of this years fieldwork (July 1), LAMP archaeologists have been working hard to implement the inaugural season of the First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project. This major program of research and public archaeology was made possible by a Special Category historical preservation grant from the State of Florida's Division of Historical Resources. Part of our mission is to spread the word about our work and the rich maritime history of Florida's First Coast, and one of the most effective ways to do this is through widespread media exposure. With the help of Beau, the Lighthouse's public relations expert, we have received some great press lately.

Continue reading "LAMP Research Gets Good Press!" »