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Ancient shipwreck washes ashore after Tropical Storm Eta hit Florida

Saturday, November 28th 2020, 11:53 am - The remains of the long-lost ship were uncovered on a Florida beach after Tropical Storm Eta powered its way through in early November.

While Eta battered Florida with flooding rains and strong winds earlier this month, it also washed ashore the remnants of a long-lost ship on Crescent Beach.

The surprising shipwreck discovery was stumbled upon by local resident Mark O’Donoghue, who then alerted St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) director Chuck Meide to the newfound findings.

After the assessment of the initial survey, it was revealed that the ship originated from the 1800s, most likely a large American vessel carrying cargo, capable of storing hardware or flour, according to Jay Smith, LAMP's relations communication specialist and governance officer, who spoke to The Weather Network through email.

He also noted that the wooden frame with the iron bolts was a common boat-building technique in the 1800s.

Florida shipwreck/Photo: Chuck Meide/LAMP It is believed the wreck belonged to the Caroline Eddy, a ship lost in August 1880, about 14.5 kilometres south of the lighthouse. Photo: Chuck Meide/Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP)

"We have been getting used to things coming up onshore after major storms, but of course, each new discovery is exciting and a great opportunity to learn more about history," said Smith. "We are always excited to get out in the field and see what can be learned from anything that either comes ashore or gets uncovered."

Based on historical research, the organization believes the wreck belonged to the Caroline Eddy, a ship lost in August 1880, about 14.5 kilometres south of the lighthouse.

Also mentioned in the archives was that the ship was caught in a hurricane or gale and collapsed off the coast, Smith said, adding that the crew aboard survived by grabbing onto the rigging and floated to shore.

"What we have ascertained from the shipwreck, we think the Caroline Eddy is a strong potential candidate for the shipwreck. We also know that the ship was salvaged and left on the beach. There is nothing within the shipwreck to indicate items were left onboard so it is likely it was salvaged – hence more evidence," added Smith.

The beach in this particular part of Anastasia Island has seen some massive erosion, so it is likely that the wreck was buried under a dune, and as the water encroached on the dune, the wreck emerged, explained Smith.

Florida shipwreck/Chuck Meide (LAMP) More than 70 per cent of all known historic shipwrecks lost in Florida are merchant vessels that participated in the coastal trade, moving goods from one coastal port to another along the Atlantic coast. Photo: Chuck Meide/Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP).

With that, he acknowledged that Eta aided in the dune’s erosion and revealed the shipwreck.

"Anastasia Island, like other barrier islands, will see periods of erosion and periods of buildup – it’s all part of the cycle. The hurricane provided the erosion needed to uncover the shipwreck," said Smith.

Florida shipwreck/LAMP Mentioned in the historical archives was that the ship was caught in a hurricane or gale and collapsed off the coast. The crew aboard survived by grabbing onto the rigging and floated to shore. Photo: Chuck Meide/Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP).

If the wreck does belong to the Caroline Eddy, Smith said it was built before the American Civil War, used by the Union to sail across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, on Spain's south coast, as well as Genoa, Italy.

This vessel would have been just like any other cargo vessel of its time – consider it like the trucks of the seas – this is how the world’s economy functioned and traded using these types of vessels," said Smith.

More than 70 per cent of all known historic shipwrecks lost in Florida are merchant vessels that participated in the coastal trade, moving goods from one coastal port to another along the Atlantic coast.

Thumbnail courtesy of Chuck Meide/Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP).

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