Remember that mysterious object found on a Florida beach? It’s a shipwreck!

Shipwreck appearing through sand — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Image by: Yehonatan Richter Levin

Theories about what the unusual 80-foot-long wood and metal object at Daytona Beach Shores in Volusia County, Florida, might have been solved after it was discovered last month.

Some speculated that it might be a piece of a shipwreck. It was suggested that bleachers might have been erected during the time when NASCAR held beach races, while others questioned whether it might be the ruins of a long-gone pier.

The riddle was solved this week. On Monday and Tuesday, a group of archaeologists dug a 60-foot ditch alongside the row of timbers. The object emerged from its grave to reveal that it was a seagoing watercraft with curved wood, ribs, and sand-logged joints.

“It is definitely a ship,” Chuck Meide, a maritime archaeologist, said on Friday. “There is no way it is not a ship.”

Shifting sands, ebbing and flowing tides, and major storm disruptions frequently bring Florida’s hidden nautical mysteries to light. Mr. Meide stated in an interview that the most probable candidate for the recent find was a privately owned commerce ship from the 1800s as he was getting ready to examine another wreck that had been found on Little Talbot Island.

Even though there are currently more mysteries than answers regarding shipwrecks, understanding earlier marine routes are helpful. Mr. Meide, the director of the research department of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, asserted that if the Daytona Beach Shores wreck carried fruit, it was most likely sailing north from the Caribbean. He stated that if it had left from the north, its cargo would almost certainly have included manufactured products.

“As archaeologists, we certainly see value in this because it is an example of something that was an essential part of our society,” he said. “America is a maritime nation. It’s a relic of a bygone age and something we rarely get a glimpse into.”

On Monday, when the tide was lower than usual, Mr. Meide joined researchers from Florida’s Public Archaeology Network and student volunteers in checking out the site. In order to carve out a trench, they dug about a foot deep into the sand, more than half as long as the approximate length of the shipwreck.

Throughout the day, excited beachgoers were handed shovels, with precautions about where to dig. “The biggest concern was: Don’t scar the timbers with your shovel,” Mr. Meide said.

As the work continued, nails, fasteners, and iron bolts came to light.

“We believe it is most likely to be an 1800s shipwreck and most likely a merchant ship,” he said. “A cargo-carrying vessel that would have sailed in sight of land up and down the coast.”

A deeper analysis of 22 wood samples taken from the site could determine where the boat came from.

“It’s not an exact science by any means, but potentially we might be able to do tree-ring analysis and get a better date,” he said. “But we don’t have complete chronologies for every species of wood.”
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