In the wake of Hurricane Nicole in November, a mysterious object made of wood and metal washed up on a beach in Florida, bringing with it the ghost of the past. Early theories proposed a shipwreck or a remnant of a long-gone pier as possible explanations. New evidence suggests the wreckage is from a cargo ship that sank in the 1800s, according to researchers.
Visitors to Daytona Beach Shores noticed the debris and began to ask questions about it. This week, a crew from the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) combed through the ruins. LAMP archaeologist Chuck Meide said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the vessel “would have likely sailed within sight of the coast and used lighthouses for navigation,” despite being large enough to cross the Atlantic.
Before the LAMP team arrived, the ship had been partially reburied in the sand, but it had been reported that the remains were at least 80 feet (24 metres) in length.
The Florida Public Archaeology Network, a state-funded programme dedicated to researching and protecting the state’s archaeological resources, also commented on the shipwreck on Facebook, warning that people shouldn’t take such discoveries as licence to dig for more treasures that could damage significant cultural heritage sites.
LAMP statement signatory and Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd added, “Please take only pictures and leave only footprints so as to preserve the integrity of archaeological sites for future generations of Floridians.”
Hurricanes such as Nicole have the potential to scour beaches, revealing historical artefacts that had been buried for a long time. They can be reclaimed by the sea and shifting sands just as easily. The ship from Daytona Beach Shores appears to be experiencing exactly that.
Researchers were able to gain insight into Florida’s maritime history during its brief period of prominence. To paraphrase what Byrd said, “in these cases, our collective human story is brought to the forefront.”
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