Just offshore from the historic homes and streets of St.
Augustine, archaeologists might have found -- for the first time
-- wreckage of a 17th century Spanish ship.
The discovery would represent a new chapter in research into
the city's past, and would be the first time a colonial Spanish
wreck was recovered this far north on Florida's Atlantic coast.
"It is a new window, and one we haven't looked in before,"
said Jim Miller, Florida's chief archaeologist. ". . . It is
very important, no doubt about it. It has the potential to lead
to a very careful and very productive research program over many
Wreckage including cannon, anchors and a stone grinding wheel
were found about three weeks ago, a half-mile offshore.
"It is going to provide the first opportunity to look at the
ships that made St. Augustine possible in the first place," said
John W. Morris III, part of a research team from the non-profit
Southern Oceans Archaeological Research which made the find.
Initial findings suggest the debris may be from a cargo
vessel as large as 120 feet.
From the remains, researchers speculated the ship sank
between 1670 and 1730, possibly overcome by a storm while
sailing for St. Augustine from Spain's main colony in Cuba.
St. Augustine was a Spanish colony from its founding in 1565
until the mid-18th century, when Florida was ceded to British
The Spanish returned several decades later, remaining until
Despite extensive historical research onshore, archaeologists
have for years been frustrated in attempts to find Spanish-era
shipwrecks in North Florida.
The discovery last month was made under 27 feet of water
during an 11-week search of 55 potential sites.
Heavy seas, a broken boat motor and poor undersea visibility
hampered the search of sites by Morris and fellow researchers
Marianne Franklin, Norine Carroll, Kelly Bumpas and Andrea
The group, almost out of money and time, was checking one of
the southern sites and found an anchor sticking out of the sand,
"It felt marvelous. I sat down there for a few minutes and
fanned the sand away from it," he said. "I came up and told
Marianne that `We have an anchor and it is Spanish and pretty
early,' and she looked over the side and said `No way!' We were
yelling and screaming halfway back to the dock."
Researchers plan to spend the next few months trying to
identify the ship based on information gathered during dives at
They will return next spring to study the site and the eight
cannon and three anchors found in it. …