Tag Archives: St. Augustine Lighthouse

Ghost Tour Experience: ‘Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House.’

The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown on October 31, 2018 during a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. Photo by Jayda Barnes

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College student

The first thing I noticed about the Dark of the Moon Tour was that it was, indeed, very dark. The chill in the air may have been due to the setting sun or the spookiness of Halloween night. The Museum grounds, usually bright with sunlight, faded into the shadows of the trees which hovered around it. The only true source of light appeared in the beacon of its namesake: The Lighthouse.

After receiving my tickets, I rented an EMF meter to sense the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by any ghosts, mostly because I knew my best friend would glare at me all night if I didn’t.

The occasion of the evening only became more apparent as we stood outside of the Museum gift shop, waiting to be led on our spooky journey. Halloween shirts and costumes popped up sporadically in a few of the more festive guests. Promptly at 7:30 pm, our party was escorted to the base of the tower, where we learned the rules for the evening and split into groups. My group entered the Lighthouse first. We stood at the bottom of the tower and listened to the stories of ghosts seen in the past, especially the mysterious Shadow Figure who has been seen peering over the railing down at guests.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening came as we huffed our way up the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. The exercise of it was frightening enough, but on top of that, the entire tower was shrouded in darkness, save for the few lanterns dangling along the way. Silhouetted figures painted on the walls of each landing invoked images of the Shadow Figure we’d just been told about.

Despite the fear and the height, everyone made it to the top and embraced the whipping chill of the wind. All of St. Augustine stretched below, hundreds of tiny lights peppering the ground. It was almost beautiful enough to make me forget the ghost story I was standing on.

Once the heat of the climb wore off and the wind became more chilling than relieving, the group made its way back down to the ground. Our guide led us around to the side of the Lighthouse, where she detailed the haunting tale of one Lightkeeper’s plummet from the original tower.

After catching our breath, we journeyed to the Keepers’ House. Stories of fatal accidents and irritable Lightkeepers filled the darkness. Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House. We ended in the basement, where we were released to explore on our own for the rest of the night.

The basement had the most activity of the evening. One man sat in one of the resident ghost’s favorite chairs. As the guest spoke to the room, EMF meters began lighting up red around his shoulders, indicating some paranormal activity. The more we spoke and scanned the room, the more lights lit up, travelling behind the chairs to the back of the room. Upstairs, we explored an area called the Shadow Room, where the energy of the room intensified as soon as we entered. My friend heard beeping in the corner as we searched the room for signs of ghostly activity.

The tour ended at 9:30 p.m., sending us back into the world to reflect on our supernatural experiences. Even with the Lighthouse looming behind us, we carried the eeriness with us into the festive evening. The tour might have been even spookier because of Halloween, but it was also even more fun because of it. As our guide told us, the Museum is “not a haunted house, just haunted.” And on Halloween, when the spiritual veil is said to be thinnest, it’s always possible the ghosts will make a special appearance, just for you.

Exhibit designer for Wrecked! wins Design Excellence Award  

The WRECKED! exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum won first place in the Education category from the American Society of Interior Designers. The nomination was submitted by Museum partners Peter and Sharon Exley of Architecture is Fun.

With inspiration and guidance from Museum staff and volunteers, they designed an exhibit that combines art, interactive experiences and traditional museum displays. Highlights include a recreation of an undulating sea floor and “floating ships” in the 1876 keepers’ house basement. These design elements provide a fun and unique way to portray how archaeologists discovered the story of a ship of British loyalist refugees that wrecked off the St. Augustine Coast at the end of the Revolutionary War.

“We are thrilled that this exhibition at the Museum has received recognition for design excellence,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “With a mission of preservation, discovery and education of maritime history, WRECKED! is an example of how we can showcase our archaeological research into an interactive display that educates the public.”

Discover St. Augustine’s ties to the American Revolutionary War in this interactive exhibition. See artifacts from a 1782 British loyalist shipwreck found right here in St. Augustine and learn how underwater archaeologists locate historic shipwrecks on the ocean floor.

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® 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. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

 

About the American Alliance of Museums:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)

 

What ‘shoe’ don’t know about archaeological shoe fragments 

These shoe buckles are on view in the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

By Elise Carroll

Assistant Archaeological Conservator

Many significant pieces of history are often over looked because of the regularity of the items occurring. Bright, shiny, seemingly significant objects, such as cannon and coins take center stage, while mundane utilitarian items are often overlooked because of their everyday use. Unsurprisingly, many of the archaeological sites we here at the lighthouse study contain these “significant” items, but they are not the only artifacts that catch our attention!

The image above is of copper shoe buckle that is on display in the window of the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Common, everyday items, such as shoe fragments, can tell you more about the specific individuals aboard our wrecks than many of these more popular, significant items. Many of these items are plain, while some are ornate and decorated. These everyday items can provide the researcher with an estimation of class, sex, and potential origins of the members aboard a vessel.

Example of men’s shoes with a buckle from the 1700s. Source: www.timetoast.com

On many of the sites we study, including Storm Wreck, Anniversary Wreck, and Tolomato archaeological site, items associated with footwear commonly occur. Footwear should be expected because of the regular occurrence of the items throughout history.  Specifically, we have found metallic and the leather fragments of footwear.

Leather footwear contained a specific trend, beginning in the seventeenth century. A piece of history, presently associated more commonly with feminine shoes, the elevated shoe heel, originated with the French King Louis XIV and his need to create a more imposing presence by increasing his height. After this, this piece of fashion slowly began to emerge into lower and middle class societies. At the Tolomato site, we have found an intact fragment of leather shoe heel that contains wooden pegs. These wooden pegs would have been used to fasten the leather layers together creating the desired lift in the heel.

The image above depicts a shoemaker’s shop. Source: “Plate 3” Art du cordonnier. Garsault, François-Alexandre-Pierre de. 1767. Paris, France. Image provided by Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département Réserve des Livres Rares and Gallica.

Shoe buckle fragments have also been found on our archaeological sites. Shoe buckles are comprised of different pieces, a loop, chape, tongue, and a pin. On our sites, we have only found the shoe buckle loops, the most substantial part of a shoe buckle. The loops have been comprised of both copper and pewter based materials. Some of the shoe buckle loops are plain and fairly non-descript, while others are ornate with patterns. Many of these loops are desalinating, or removing the salt from the item, in the window of the Conservation Lab for our guests to see. The salt from the desalinating cupreous loops cause the solution to turn deep blue, which is always fun for guests to see!

These shoe fragments are not the only shoe related materials found on site. We just discovered a piece of shoe sole in our dredge spoil! However, the shoe sole is very modern (known to us as “modern intrusive”). Though the modern shoe fragment does not really tell us much about the historic wreck itself, it provides us more information for our site formation process theories, which is also important for archaeologists. Shoes, though not the most impressive or grandiose of artifacts, play a significant role in history and allow us to step back in time.

LAMP 2018 Field School: Student Perspective

The 2018 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) field school has successfully concluded. This year we had students from across the country come to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum  to learn about underwater archaeology, enhance their diving skills and help excavate our the Anniversary Wreck site and at several other shipwreck locations.

By Mily Llanos and Amy Green

The first week at LAMP was probably one of the most nerve wracking things that any of the students had experienced. Most of the week consisted of an overall orientation of the program, and training to prepare us for the weeks to come. The blackout-mask obstacle course was definitely the highlight of our first week. As new LAMP divers, blind and snagging on the traps left by our supervisors, we pretty much thought we were going to die in a 15 foot pool. But surprisingly enough, it was a ton of fun and we all passed with flying colors. That same week we visited the wreck we would excavate for the rest of the summer, and thank god for that blackout course, because it was dark as night down there (the visibility at the site is very poor). We familiarized ourselves with the site, and our dive supervisor Chuck Meide even had us beginning the excavation process. We were all excited to get out on the ocean and begin learning the methods and techniques of underwater archaeology.

The following week was mostly spent aboard the USRV Roper out on the ocean. It was a fantastic learning experience; we could barely see our fingers underwater, and we frequently suffered the wrath of the jellyfish, but we survived. After setting up the site with grid squares, baselines, travel lines and everything necessary to dig in the dark, we began the arduous task of digging meters below the sand to find the ancient shipwreck. Taking opening and closing elevations was by far the most challenging part of it, thanks to the visibility. Trying to communicate underwater in poor viz was a bit problematic at times, but good team work and buddy trust made for a successful week. Some of us got sea sick, some days the surge was strong, but we pushed through.

Due to a hurricane up north, we spent our third week on the St. Johns River where two brothers out fishing one day stumbled upon hull planks and a bottle dating to the American Civil War. We had the pleasure of attempting to map what they found. When we first arrived, the red tint of the water cast an eerie light on the partially buried timbers, while the alligators and unseen water moccasins made the 5-foot-deep wreck scarier than it should have been. We began by marking points of interest on the site with bamboo rods, and by the end of the week had created a scale drawing of the now-presumed river barge wreck.

During the last week of the field school, sadness began to set in as we realized that most of us would part ways and never see each other again. But deep down, we knew we would come away with one of the most exciting summers of our lives, full of adventures and challenges. Living in a communal space made us very close to one another, and many movie nights led to us all knowing every single Disney movie ever made. We spent the week on Roper as much as possible, and though Florida weather did its best to thwart us, we got some excavation done. We also got a chance to speak to the public about our time here at LAMP, telling them about ourselves and everything we had learned here. The very last day, we circled a sea buoy as a victory lap to celebrate a successful field school, which basically just meant that no one died.

In conclusion, what did we take away from the whole thing? Well, we now realize that recreational and scientific scuba diving are two VERY different things. Not all sites are as beautiful as they put on the cover of magazines and tv shows. Not as glamorous as Indiana Jones, either, though probably just as dangerous. We learned that sometimes you literally have to dive in black waters and oh! Things you will touch… trust me, it’s better not to know.  But the comradery of everyone on board made every single day wonderful. So even though we had to say our good byes and our see you soons, we’ll never really say goodbye to the LAMP field school experience.

2018 LAMP Field School: A Supervisor’s Tale

The 2018 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) field school has successfully concluded. This year we had students from across the country come to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum  to learn about underwater archaeology, enhance their diving skills and help excavate our the Anniversary Wreck site and at several other shipwreck locations.

Written by Megan Bebee and Silvana Kreines

As supervisors, we have conquered the challenges the students will face during the season. Most of us originally came here as students, with this being our first experiences with underwater archaeology. With this experience under our weight belts, we are able to relate to the students, better understand what they are feeling, and better understand what they are expected to accomplish and learn; with this knowledge and experience, we can better guide them through their time at the LAMP field school. Supervising and leading students both underwater and on land has honed our leadership skills, which will prepare us for our professional future both in diving and archaeology.

The difference between our experience as students verses supervisors is that now we get to see all the behind the scenes operations which include getting the site ready for the students’ arrival, preparing tools and materials for their use, and participate in scheduling and planning activities. We now feel more confident in our abilities to go out into the world and create a safe and productive operation plan. As supervisors, we get the fulfilling experience of watching the students grow as the weeks progress. From some starting with just weeks to a couple years of experience to being able to navigate their way through the low visibility and harsh waters for which St. Augustine is famous.

As supervisors we get to help students hone their diving and archaeological skills. Between the five supervisors this year, we have 32 years of diving experience. This allows us to guide students effortlessly on site and help them develop good diving and safety habits and practices.  It is amazing to see how the students develop and evolve as divers from the first week of training dives to the last week on site. By the end of the season, all of the students have become much more comfortable and confident in the water to the point that sometimes they lead us around.

However, the most moving part of this journey that we get to witness is how much they each grow as individuals. We spend all week diving together, living in the same house, and going out together on weekends. As we all know from our personal experiences, field school is an amazing place to make lifelong friends, and, as supervisors, we have gotten to watch these relationships develop between students. This in turn allows the students to grow more confident and independent. As the students continue in their careers, they will come to realize that these new friendships are the start of a vast professional network that will help carry them through to amazing future prospects.

Though the techniques and methodology they learn through the field school is invaluable, the relationships the students have made with each other and the supervisors and staff at LAMP will prove the most valuable for their futures. We cannot wait to see where they go next and the projects they will one day direct themselves!