Shifting Sand Yield Mystery Ship Wreck On Remote Georgia Island That Likely Dates To 1800s, Associated Press, Washington Post, January 21, 2013.
The odd skeleton of wooden beams barely poked above the sands, exposed just
enough by wind and tides for a beachcomber to report the curious find.
Fred Boyles, National Park Service superintendent on Georgia’s Cumberland
Island, says the buried beams could have easily been overlooked as ordinary
flotsam washed ashore on the beach. But archaeologists called to the remote
Atlantic coastal island spent days last week unearthing an astonishing find: an
old wooden shipwreck held together with wooden pegs, its backstory lost in
“Someone had the foresight to say that doesn’t just look like normal wood,
and thank goodness they called us,” Boyles said of the island resident, who
stumbled on the wreck around Christmas. “Frankly, had I been driving on the
beach, I would’ve ridden right by.” This 80-foot-long fragment of history, with some of its wooden siding still
intact, is believed to date to the mid-1800s based on its construction, said
Michael Steiber, a National Park Service archaeologist trying to crack the
mystery of the ship’s origin.
It might have been delivering supplies to Southern plantation owners who grew
cotton, corn and rice on Cumberland Island for decades after the Revolutionary
War, Steiber said. Or perhaps it was a Confederate blockade runner that sank
during the Civil War. There is no shortage of potential suspects on Cumberland Island, a place
steeped in history. The park service manages the island off the Southeast coast
today as a federally protected wilderness. “This has been a high-traffic area ever since the Spanish and the British
started colonizing,” Steiber said. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
The archaeologists made copious notes during their days of excavation on the
site last week. They drew maps and collected wood samples for testing. Now they
are turning to the historical records for clues. Early Spanish settlers operated missions on the island for roughly a century,
from 1587 to 1684. The English arrived not long after Gen. James Edward
Oglethorpe founded Georgia as the 13th British colony in 1733. In the 1800s,
plantations thrived on Cumberland Island until the region’s economy collapsed
after the Civil War. Yet identifying the wreck is proving elusive.
The story continues at Washington Post.
Image Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution