Florida - 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, unaffected by cars that drove daily on the beach or sand castles built by generations of tourists.
Beachgoers and lifeguards discovered the wooden structure, between 80 feet and 100 feet, poking out of the sand over Thanksgiving weekend in front of homes that collapsed into rubble on Daytona Beach Shores last month from Hurricane Nicole.
It's an amazing occurrence whenever you find a shipwreck on the beach. There is a mystery, you know. It is not there one day, and it is there the next day, so it really captivates the imagination, said the marine archaeologist Chuck Meide, who led an archaeological team from St. Augustine, Florida on Tuesday to examine the beach find.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in late September on Florida's southwest 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 the erosion of Ian.
It's a rare experience, but it is not unique, and it seems with climate change and more intense hurricane seasons it's happening more often, Meide said.
The archeological team removed sand and made a shallow trench around the structure's wooden timbers, took measurements and made sketches in an effort to solve the 200-year mystery. The digging team members went from using shovels to trowels to using their hands as more of the frame was exposed, so as not to damage any of the wood.
It is going a lot quicker today, but it does take a lot of time, said Arielle Cathers, one of the team members, as she kneeled in the sand around the trench unearthing parts of the timber frame with a trowel. You want to go really carefully. Meide, who serves as the director of the research arm of St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum in Florida, said he is convinced that the structure is a shipwreck because of how it was constructed and materials such as iron bolts that were used.
It is not uncommon for items to wash up or become uncovered along beaches after storms. In Martin County, which is about 160 miles south of Volusia County, the remains of six people believed to be from a Native American burial ground were unearthed by Nicole's wind and waves. A historical steamer-style trunk and other items washed onto beaches.
After the initial discovery two weeks ago, sand from waves reburied the ship's timbers that had become visible on Daytona Shores Beach. Members of the archeological team this week don't intend to reveal 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 isn't a plan to remove the ship from Daytona Beach Shores, not only because the cost would likely run in the millions of dollars, but because it is protected where it is, packed into the wet sand, Meide said.
He said that we will let Mother Nature bury the wreck. That will help preserve it. As long as the hull is wet and dark, it will last a long time, hundreds of more years.