JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There's a group on a mission.
"We're just trying to find any kind of evidence of the fort," instructor Keith Ashley said.
Day by day, archaeological students and instructors work to find the lost French Colony of La Caroline, better known as Fort Caroline.
French Huguenots settled it in the 1560s, only to have it overtaken and dominated by the Spanish -- who founded the historical city of St. Augustine around the same time.
"We know through documents it was here in this general area. We just don't know exactly where. So, really we have no evidence except documents, so we're trying to find something," Ashley continued.
For the students -- this is hands-on learning at its finest. Since early summer, they've scoured through dirt deposits, sifted through oyster shells...and even found pottery shards dating back to 500 A.D.
"You don't really know what you're missing until you're actually in here," student Megan Paciello said.
The survey is also searching for the location of native Timucua villages that may have been occupied when the French first arrived. Ashley says this potential discovery is not only important to modern-day Jacksonville -- but it's important to the rest of early U.S. history.
"It really starts the ball rolling with kind of a European/Euro-American colonization and where we are today," he said.
Students and staff still have a lot of work to do at Spanish Pond. They'll be working a couple of days a week all the way through April.
The dig is being funded by a $43,000 Florida Historic Preservation Grant. The project is in cooperation with the National Park Service.