A well-preserved shipwreck that dates back to over 200 years ago washed ashore on a Florida beach on Tuesday night. Two beachgoers discovered the remains of the 18th-century shipwreck early Wednesday morning, and researchers are now working to create a three-dimensional model of what the ship would have looked like in “its original form,” according to the Daily Mail on Thursday.
The Daily Mail reports that curious Florida residents are flocking to the South Ponte Vedra Beach, which is about a 20-minute drive northwest to Jacksonville, to view the 18th-century “gigantic” shipwreck that was found by Julie Turner from Vilano and her 8-year-old son, Patrick. Only the wooden hull of the ship washed ashore, but the centuries-old wreckage is still being called the “holy grail of shipwrecks.”
According to the Florida Times-Union out of Jacksonville, the hull of the shipwreck, which measures nearly 50-foot-long, could date as far back as the late 1700s. Researchers are currently taking details from the ribs of the ship’s hull to try to determine an exact date of the sailing ship, as well as the story behind the wreckage.
The 18th-century shipwreck is being called a “relic” and a “historical” artifact that researchers say has been so well-preserved from laying under the sand for years before being washed ashore earlier this week. Researchers also worry that the shipwreck could be washed “under the water” again by the high tide before they’re able to fully examine the ship.
Turner reportedly first thought the wreckage from the ship, that currently has an undetermined origin, was a fence, especially since several other pieces of the ship washed ashore several yards away from the main hull. The ribbed shape of the hull also resembles a wooden fence, and several up-close photos show details of the age of the shipwreck.
The previously-mentioned article on the Daily Mail shows photos of the “very rare” 18th-century shipwreck with visible Roman numerals etched into the sides of the hull’s ribs, along with still-intact wooden pegs and tacks that are covered in copper, which is apparently a very indicative clue that the ship had once been completely covered in copper. One maritime historian, Brendan Burke, calls the etched writing on the hull “amazing.”
“It’s really amazing to see somebody’s writing that’s been buried in the ocean for well more than a century.”
Now considered to be the property of the state of Florida, the 18th-century shipwreck will more than likely be further inspected by archaeologists that have been requested by St. Johns County, as reported by Fox News. In the meantime, current researchers are taking as many notes, measurements, photos, and drawings of the shipwreck as they can to map it out and try to determine where it came from, its date of origin, and its backstory.
The Florida Times-Union report shares that the shipwreck was washed ashore overnight Tuesday by a storm surge, and Turner first sighted the wreckage before 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning from the deck of her parents’ home in Ponte Vedra. Chuck Meide, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), says that the 18th-century shipwreck probably didn’t actually wreck “anywhere nearby” where it came ashore on Ponte Vedra Beach.
Turner’s son, Patrick, confirmed that the beach had been clear on Tuesday, with “nothing there” as he played — only sand, shells, water, and sticks.
Fox News reports that the ultimate fate of the 18th-century shipwreck has not yet been determined by Florida officials.
An article on Copper Development Association Inc. notes that copper sheathing was first used on wooden ships belonging to England’s Royal Navy in the mid-18th century to prevent sailing ships from being worn away by mollusks that drill into wood using “sharp teeth.”