ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Submerged in the water's edge just south of Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, the skeleton of an old schooner has been haunting archaeologists at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum for four years.
After a nor'easter in January exposed more of the wreck than ever before, the archaeologists were finally able to put together the puzzle pieces and identify the ship as the Deliverance, which wrecked in December 1947.
"We first visited this wreck site in 2008, and we've kept an eye on it since then as numerous storms over the years have exposed the ribs and keel in the sand," said Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program. "After the last visit where so much of the ship's keel and ribs were exposed, we had a renewed energy to research this wreck."
Meide and his team began with a list of 10 possible matches from shipwrecks recorded in the area between 1866 and 1974. One wreck quickly stood out, thanks to photos found in "St. Augustine and St. Johns County: A Pictorial History" by Karen Harvey, and in the archives of the Beaches Museum and History Park in Jacksonville. All three images showed a two-masted schooner beached near Mickler's Landing with her hull parallel to the shore and bow pointed south.
But the photos only identified the wreck as a "Bermuda boat" run aground during a storm in December 1947. LAMP consulted its list of 10 wrecks again and noted that a motor vessel called the Deliverance also ran aground in 1947 in the same area. Meide knew it was possible for a ship of that era to have sails and a motor. He also recalled from his previous archaeological work in Bermuda that English explorers wrecked on the island in 1609 while en route to Jamestown, Va., and built a new vessel to complete their journey, which they named Deliverance.
The name of the famous ship carried so much weight, many other vessels built in Bermuda over the centuries were given the same title.
Armed with a name and date, LAMP archaeologist Brendan Burke scoured the Internet until a tiny article in the archives of an English-language newspaper in Singapore confirmed the theory of the boat's origins. The article identified the Deliverance, a ship with a regular route between Jacksonville and Bermuda, and described the boat's demise met on Dec. 13, 1947. Capt. Wilson King and a crew of eight fought to save the ship during a brutal storm, but were unable to keep it from running aground on the Ponte Vedra shore.
With the mystery solved, Deliverance joins the vast catalogue of shipwreck tales identified by the lighthouse archaeology team. LAMP said it will be back in the water this summer to continue research on a 1782 British loyalist vessel located less than a mile from the St. Augustine coastline. Cannons, muskets, cauldrons, spoons and other artifacts from this wreck are currently under conservation at the museum for future exhibit display.
LAMP said each archaeology discovery helps tell the stories of the Nation's Oldest PortSM through educational programs and historic preservation at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.