Officials said the strong winds and heavy rains of Tropical Storm Etah opened up the 19th-century shipwreck, long buried under the sands of the northeast Florida coast.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) said local resident Mark O’Donoghue came upon a collection of exposure timers recently released from under a dune while walking on Crescent Beach.
Marine archaeologists believe the discovery of O’Donoghue is the remains of a 19th-century American merchant ship, possibly carrying supplies such as flour and hardware and down the East Coast.
“Everything we’ve seen so far depends on that hypothesis: wood planks, firewood, iron fasteners,” LAMP director Chuck Meide said in a statement.
Indicating the exact history of this ship – such as its name or when the craft met its end – can be an impossible task.
“It could be at the end of his life, and he drove it to the beach and called it a day,” LAMP archaeologist Nick Budsberg told Jacksonville NBC affiliate WTLV. “Or it is possible that it had gone out of the sea and a part of the ship made it to the beach.”
The ship’s wooden crates show signs of burning, suggesting that the ship’s demise may have been over-controlled and a catastrophic on the high seas, not a Davy Jones locker event.
“My gut is telling me that the burning incident happened after the burn,” Meide said. “Someone may very well have lit it for the purpose of salvaging it because then you shift through the ashes and take out the metal spikes and sell the scraps.”