ST JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Mark O’Donoghue stumbled upon exposed timbers he believed to be a shipwreck while walking Crescent Beach on Saturday morning.
“I just saw some timbers that were uncovered by erosion on the sand on the beach,” he told Action News Jax.
O’Donoghue says he returned to the site on Sunday to see more of the timbers had been exposed. He tells us locals suggested he reach out to St. Augustine’s Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program (LAMP).
“Sunday, more of it was exposed, so then I went ahead and contacted Chuck Meide at LAMP,” O’Donoghue said. “And he sent somebody out, and right away I sent him pictures and he said ‘Yeah! That’s a shipwreck.’”
On Monday, LAMP director, Chuck Meide, and his team spent the day uncovering parts of the shipwreck, taking pictures, and collecting data.
Meide says the wooden timbers and iron fasteners, lead them to believe it was a merchant ship from the 1800s.
“It’s most likely that a ship that we find on our coast was probably a merchant ship. So, it was probably a cargo ship, carrying goods, again in the 1800s,” Meide said. “Think of the kind of like a Walmart semitruck. A ship that was carrying a bunch of, could be hardware, could be flour, could be all kinds of different commodities.”
He tells us many shipwrecks found along Northeast Florida’s coast date back to the 19th century.
“Everything we’ve seen on it so far fits that hypothesis, wooden planking, wood timbers, iron fasteners they look quite similar to other ships from the 1800s that we have seen.”
Medie says there are early indications of where the ship came from.
“These timbers were cut in feet and inches. So, the keelson, for example, was 12 inches across. So, that tells us that it is more likely to be an American ship, a Canadian ship, or a British ship,” Meide said.
O’Donoghue described what it was like to stumble upon history.
“It’s awesome! The fact that we’re going to uncover it, or that LAMP are going to uncover it, and hopefully that it can be shared with future generations, it’s part of our history,” he said.
Meide says moving and preserving the shipwreck would take millions of dollars. At this time, he says the best place for it is on the beach.
He shared as a reminder to the public that disturbing the timbers, or taking a souvenir, is a crime.