May I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This is truly the season when people are looking for holiday treasures. Some are found under a Christmas tree, some in a stocking and others by a fireplace. (Do we even have those in Florida?) This year, I am searching in a different location for special gifts . . . under the sea.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about local author and captain, Tom Williams, who will soon be featured on an upcoming Travel Channel series, Caribbean Gold.
Tom’s book, Lost and Found, tells a fictitious tale of finding pirate gold and silver around the South Florida area. Some of his storyline is based on fact. It’s a fun book and worth reading.
Not long after this article appeared in the Coastal Breeze News, I was approached by a local fisherman who shared a very interesting story. He told me of an underwater structure that he and a few friends visit in search of good fishing. When he described the structure, my eyes lit up!
It is the remnants of a sunken boat which fit the profile of an older vessel. The remainder of the disintegrating hull is made of wood and appears to be about 30 feet wide. There are ballast rocks along the hull. These stones were placed inside a ship to provide stability and control, especially in times before motorized boats.
The site has the characteristics of an older ship that was scuttled or possibly broken apart by bad weather. The initial key to where this ship came from is in those ballast rocks. An analysis of these stones might tell us if the vessel came from France, Spain, England or Florida. This is where my search for Christmas gifts begins this year.
The captain who knows this location shall remain nameless at this time, but the first step to solving this mystery is underway. Stephanie Lyons, a Florida naturalist who conducts ecotours in Big Cypress for Stepping Stone Ecotours, is also a certified open water diver. She will accompany El Capitan and me to the site very soon so we can extract some stones to be sent away to determine a point of origin. This insight might help determine an approximate time the ship was in the area. This time line might help determine what the area topography was like at that date and could shed some light about other remains north, south, east or west of the location based on water flow in that era.
If the ballast rocks are, indeed, from another country, this could warrant further dives to search for artifacts. These treasures may be a key to further understanding our area in the past.
Enjoy your tree, look closely into that stocking and search carefully around that fireplace if you have one. I’m going diving somewhere between Cancun and New Orleans. Stay tuned mateys . . . arrr!
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and a naturalist on board the Dolphin Explorer survey program. He is a member of Florida SEE (Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife very much!