Severe beach erosion from two late-season hurricanes has helped uncover what appears to be a wooden ship dating from the 1800s which had been buried under the sand on Florida’s east coast for up to two centuries, impervious to cars that drove daily on the beach or sand castles built by generations of tourists.
Beachgoers and lifeguards discovered the wooden structure, between 80ft and 100ft (24-31 meters), poking out of the sand over Thanksgiving weekend in front of homes which collapsed into rubble on Daytona Beach Shores last month from Hurricane Nicole.
“Whenever you find a shipwreck on the beach it’s really an amazing occurrence. There’s this mystery, you know. It’s not there one day, and it’s there the next day, so it really captivates the imagination,” said maritime archaeologist Chuck Meide, who on Tuesday led an archeological team from St Augustine, Florida, to examine the beach find.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in late September on Florida’s south-west coast and exited into the Atlantic Ocean over central Florida. Nicole devastated much of Volusia county’s coastline in early November, leaving behind homes collapsed into the ocean after they had been made vulnerable to erosion from Ian.
“It’s a rare experience, but it’s not unique, and it seems with climate change and more intense hurricane seasons, it’s happening more frequently,” Meide said of the discovery.
Meide, who serves as the director of the research arm of St Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in Florida, said he was convinced the structure is a shipwreck because of how it was constructed and the materials such as iron bolts that were used.
After the initial discovery two weeks ago, sand from waves reburied the ship’s timbers that had become visible on Daytona Beach Shores. Members of the archeological team this week do not intend to uncover the entire length of the ship, but merely enough to measure it, draw it and possibly take some wood samples to test for its origins.
There are no plans to remove the ship from Daytona Beach Shores, not only because the cost would probably run in the millions of dollars, but because it is protected where it is, packed into the wet sand, Meide said.
“We will let Mother Nature bury the wreck,” he said. “That will help preserve it.”