The Centuries-Old Shipwreck Discovered On Daytona Beach In Florida

For the past month, the perplexed residents of Daytona Beach Florida have been transfixed by a mysterious wooden skeleton that suddenly emerged from beneath the sand. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the 80-foot-long structure is made up of wooden planks and metal joints. The corrosive effects of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole gradually swept away centuries of accumulated sand to reveal the large wooden structure piece by piece.

Initially, many people believed it was the remains of a set of long-lost Nascar bleachers, which are sometimes constructed along the beachfront for regular races on the sand. Descending on the beach to solve the mystery, a troop of archaeologists has confirmed that the object is in fact a 19th-century shipwreck.

Florida residents will know that shallow waters, piracy, and hellish hurricanes off the coast of the sunshine state once made sailing a perilous activity (via Florida Museum). The Daytona wreck will be added to a long list of historical shipwrecks from the region, stretching back to the 16th century.

The vessel

In order to get a better look at the vessel a team of archaeologists dug a trench around the wreck at low tide and removed excess sand (via The New York Times). They were joined by excited locals, who were also handed shovels and instructed to dig.

The curved wooden planks that the group uncovered eventually confirmed that the wreck was definitely a boat, one which was probably carrying cargo to or from the Caribbean. Archeologists have suggested that the ship may have been hauling fruit north or manufactured goods south. It is believed that the trading ship was most likely privately owned.

According to maritime archaeologist Christopher McCarron, merchant vessels like this would have been a common sight off the coast of Florida in the 1800s, "Imagine as many Amazon trucks that you see on the roads today — this was the equivalent in the 1800s."

Following the excavation, 22 wood samples from the craft were taken away for analysis. The team hopes that they will reveal more about where and when the boat was built.

Reclaimed by nature

Unfortunately, Daytona residents won't be able to see the ship for long. To preserve the wreck for future generations, the team will allow it to be reclaimed by the waves and sand once more (via Smithsonian Magazine). Wooden vessels present a massive problem for archaeologists because, although they remain relatively stable underwater, they shrink and crack as soon as they dry out (via Heritage Science, 2022). Pulling the wreckage out of the sand would also be difficult and costly, so archaeologists have opted to leave it where it is.

Speaking to The New York Times, archaeologist Chuck Meide commented that "It is nestled within a wet sand matrix and has been buried for over a hundred years. As long as it stays wet and in the dark, it will last pretty much forever." The ship will also be protected by Florida law, which forbids residents from removing pieces of the wreck or otherwise altering the vessel.