Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Summer Camp 2017

Did you know there are camps at the Lighthouse? We offer camps three times per year which follow the St. Johns County Schools’ calendar during summer, winter, and spring breaks. Our camps also reach out to underserved and at-risk populations through scholarships and donations from our generous supporters. Scholarships and donations allow students to attend our camps who have high academic achievement and potential but do not have the economic means to attend. This year we also partnered with First Coast Blessings in a Backpack to ensure those students who need it would receive nutritional meals when they are not at camp. See below for more information.

Beginning May 30th, campers survived a shipwreck on Anastasia Island, immersed themselves in local folkways, tried their hand at archaeological conservation, became a tourist, and kept our light going. Whew! Each week has a different theme that brings STEAM-based learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Mathematics) and fun to campers. Guest Speakers, field trips, science experiments, crafts, and activities bring each theme to life. Of course, there is the opportunity to climb the tower and explore our exhibits, too.

Some questions we asked the campers to consider during their first week for the theme, Shipwreck Survival:
• What is the most important thing to do when stranded?
• Would you create shelter, make fire, find water or scavenge for supplies first?

Staying dry and lessening your exposure to the elements is priority number one. Heat stroke or hypothermia would cause problems that could prevent you from being able to tackle those other necessities for survival. Other IFS (Important For Survival) skills were learned and practiced by campers to ensure the highest number of survivors possible, which for us was 100% just as expected!

Can you name all the cultural influences that shaped St. Augustine before and after its founding in 1565? Our second week aimed to do just that by inviting community members and staff to share with campers their heritage and traditions from the past. Cuban foodways, Greek culture, and Seminole clothing design are just a few of the customs with which the campers engaged.

Some questions that arose as we learned:
• Is it hard to find the queen bee in a group of bees?
• Does using an atlatl really make a difference?
• Can I navigate from point A to point B?
The answers that we found to those questions:
• Very hard!
• Yes it really does make a difference!
• Not when it is raining unfortunately.

What do eggs and vinegar have to do with shipwreck conservation? The third week focused on the methods our Maritime Archaeological Conservationists use to process artifacts. Topics included: concretions, cleaning artifacts, preservation, casting, artifact cell absorption of salt water, non-Newtonian fluids, and the meaning of maritime archaeology. ***TRY AT HOME*** Putting an egg into vinegar for 24-36 hours removes the calcium from the shell and the outer membrane becomes “rubber-like”, while the yolk inside remains unscathed. Conservationists may use vinegar to remove the calcium in a concretion that is on a soft metal, like a coin. The concretion can be removed without scratching the metal underneath. Give the egg a try at home but be careful because the membrane can break easily. A highlight for campers was performing emergency conservation triage.
What is a spectroscope? Our campers not only learned what one is, but they made one, too. The last week of camp concentrated on the Science of Light as it relates to our Fresnel lens in the tower. Two of the topics were reflection/refraction and magnification. Our man-made lens does all three, but can you think of another natural resource that does this too? Water! A highlight for this week was seeing how a kerosene lantern worked. DID YOU KNOW? The Lighthouse went from oil to kerosene in 1885.

Are you curious about unanswered questions? Well, you know the answer to that! Come join us at the Lighthouse, visit our website, or register for a camp to learn more. Additionally, please visit the below links to learn more about the wonderful mission of First Coast Blessings in a Backpack who helped us to make a difference this year in over half of our campers’ lives.

Which St. Augustine Ghost Tour is the Best?

All this month (July 1st – July 22nd) you can hopefully let us know it’s the Dark of the Moon Tours as we ask our discerning public to vote for us during the annual St. Augustine Record “Best Of” contest!  Each year voters choose their favorites in all categories in town from hair salons to restaurants to entertainment options.


Open to the public, Dark of the Moon Tours offer guests a chance to learn about the ghosts who haunt the Lighthouse grounds and after a guided tour, investigate on their own the grounds, the Lighthouse Tower and inside the Keepers’ House. As this has proved to be one of the most popular paranormal tours in St. Augustine, reservations are strongly encouraged to ensure your desired evening for adventure.  Plus, this is the tour for you if you’ve always wanted to climb the Tower at night.

For those who want an even more unique experience, we have started offering investigation-only tours! The investigation-only tours will be three full hours of exploring the darkened Lighthouse Tower and the Keepers’ House basement. The potential for a creepy encounter is heightened by the fact that these tours fall on important dates in the Lighthouse Tower’s history:  July’s tour is the anniversary of the tragic cart accident involving the Pittee girls; at midnight of October’s tour we will celebrate the first lighting of our current Lighthouse Tower (1874); and December’s tour will be in memory of Keeper Joseph Andreu who fell from the original tower while painting (1859).

If you haven’t already experienced the more mysterious side of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, now is definitely the time to do so.  We’re inviting you all here this summer to either try our signature paranormal Dark of the Moon Tours or if you’re already a fan, to try the NEW investigation-only tour.  Either way, we’re sure you’ll have a fun night out and then hopefully vote us, “Best Of” Ghost Tours in St. Augustine (!

Happy Haunting!

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Love at the St. Augustine Lighthouse

It’s not a secret that the Lighthouse is one of the most iconic landmarks in St. Augustine and has been for over 140 years!  But did you know that the striped Tower, Keepers’ House, and Live Oaks can also be a part of your special day?blog 1

Some of our visitors have found creative ways to incorporate the unique site into their engagements and ceremonies.  Recently, I received a phone call from a museum member who wanted to “pop the question” on the top of the Lighthouse Tower.  He came to me with a plan, and we were able to make it a reality!  While the two climbed the Lighthouse Tower, the sister carefully placed letters at the base that said “Marry Me Victoria”.


After they made it to the top, Victoria looked down to see the proposal sprawled at the base.


And Victoria said “YES”!

In addition to proposals, we also host ceremonies.  We have our ceremonies on the front lawn of the Keepers’ House, under the twisted Live Oaks.

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Depending on the time of year, the Keepers’ House and grounds may be decorated for the Christmas holiday season.

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The price starts at $600 and increases depending on the number of guests.  Admission is included for each guest after the ceremony.  If a Lighthouse wedding is in your future, please contact Loni Wellman, Volunteer & Events Manager at 904-829-0745 ext 213 or at

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For more ceremony and engagement ideas from couples who had their photos and events here, check out these local bloggers:

Join Us in Celebrating Sam Andrews

Around this time each year the Museum store prepares for the heavy tourism season. St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Gift Shop staff work to ensure appropriate levels of inventory, to have the types of items people enjoy and to keep the store looking good despite the foot traffic which goes in and out each day. One person who does an exceptional job day in and day out is Sam Andrews. Sam is the Museum Shop Manager, making sure, among other things, that the almost 14,000 t-shirts sold annually are in the colors you want and the styles you like. Sam credits his incredible team for making his job look easy, but it is hard to deny how straight he keeps the ship steered when he is celebrating five years with the Lighthouse! Sam wants everyone to know that it truly makes his job easy when he has the beautiful Lighthouse at which to gaze each day and staff who maintain what he considers a “quality attraction” for all.

Lighthouse flip-flops.
Lighthouse flip-flops.



In honor of Sam’s anniversary month, come pick up your favorite t-shirt today, along with some Lighthouse flip-flops and homemade fudge as we make our way into summer. While here, give a wave to Sam and say, “congratulations!”

Author’s note:  Sam graciously declined to pose for the camera for this article.


Homemade fudge from our gift shop.
Homemade fudge from our gift shop.


Field Season is Right Around the Corner for Lighthouse Archaeologists

The R/V Roper, IMH’s 36’, steel-hulled, ex-shrimp trawler turned dive research vessel approaches the loading dock. She returns June 22 for another summer of research in St. Augustine.
The R/V Roper, IMH’s 36’, steel-hulled, ex-shrimp trawler turned dive research vessel approaches the loading dock. She returns June 22 for another summer of research in St. Augustine.

It’s that time of year again:  the higher humidity is returning to the air while temperatures rise both here on land and in the water offshore; in order to accommodate the busy summer season, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will soon be returning to extended hours; and our research arm, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), is preparing to return to the field for another season of research in the waters of our nation’s oldest port.

We have a lot to look forward to this season: the Museum’s new research center will soon be complete which will have new conservation space, education space, and office space; twelve new students will be joining us for our annual field school in underwater archaeology, beginning June 26th; and the R/V Roper, the Institute of Maritime History’s (IMH) 36’ research vessel, is returning to serve as our main dive platform for the 2017 season.

The story we aim to focus on this season is that of the Anniversary Wreck, an as yet unidentified shipwreck located within a mile of St. Augustine’s shores. Discovered during 2015’s 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, the site is proving to be an exciting project with a dense artifact scatter, the nature of which currently leads archaeologists to believe it may represent a merchant vessel, although the exact time period of the wreck and nationality of the vessel are still unknown.

Here a diver holds recently excavated stoneware sherds from the Anniversary Wreck. The sherds help narrow the time frame of the wreck to sometime between 1750 and 1820.
Here a diver holds recently excavated stoneware sherds from the Anniversary Wreck. The sherds help narrow the time frame of the wreck to sometime between 1750 and 1820.
The marine magnetometer (left) and sidescan sonar (right), that are employed during remote sensing survey.
The marine magnetometer (left) and sidescan sonar (right), which are employed during remote sensing survey.

This season will also include elements of remote sensing survey, where archaeologists employ a sidescan sonar (for acoustic imaging) and a marine magnetometer (for magnetic field detection). These instruments are used to identify potential new archaeological sites for further investigation, as well as to monitor those we have already studied, in order to observe how these sites change from year to year, and to look out for potential damage from things like storms, erosion, or looting.


We have a few weeks yet before the Roper and our new students arrive, so for the time being we are finishing up the last bits of yearly equipment maintenance and organization while making sure the final pieces of preseason preparation are in order. Soon, though, we will be back to 6 a.m. starts, and days filled with digging, recording, and hopefully, no small amount of discovery into the maritime landscape of our own ancient city. We can’t wait to share with you what we find.

An early morning sunrise from the loading dock on Salt Run.
An early morning sunrise from the loading dock on Salt Run.