Shipwrecks are as much a part of Florida as sea and sand. Second only to Alaska in total coastline, the waters off of Florida’s coasts have been collecting unlucky ocean-going vessels for centuries. Often, they remain submerged and covered by shifting sands. While hurricanes and storms might break pieces from wrecks and wash them ashore, rarely does a storm shift large, mostly intact portions of a ship up onto a beach. However, that’s exactly what happened the last week of March when a morning beach stroll turned into a big discovery: a portion of a historic shipwreck had been pushed up onto the beach near Ponte Vedra and the race was on for professionals to document it before it was swept back to the ocean or deteriorated past saving.
The USF Libraries DHHC joined the documentation team, headed by the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), to provide 3D documentation for the remaining portion of the shipwreck. Gathering accurate information about the tool-marks and timbers used to construct the vessel are key pieces of information needed by maritime archaeologists when assessing shipwrecks. Pushed from its watery resting place, wood may start to rapidly deteriorate making the identification of these sometimes ephemeral clues a true challenge. One way to preserve this information accurately is the use of terrestrial laser scanning.
DHHC staff scanned the wreck under the watchful gaze of hundreds of curious onlookers. The Ponte Vedra shipwreck became a tourist attraction almost as soon as it was reported and cars lined A1A for miles near the site. Not everyone will have an opportunity to see the wreck firsthand, but an important result of the DHHC scanning process was the creation of a 3D model of the shipwreck that could be viewed by anyone anywhere. You can view it on the Sketchfab link below.
The story of the Ponte Vedra wreck isn’t over yet. The DHHC will be conducting a closer survey of the ship timbers in the coming weeks and LAMP will continue to work on their final analysis of the ship. We may yet answer questions about when it was built, when it sank, and we might even learn her name. Stay tuned!