Trawling Through St. Augustine's History

Mary Collins

Plodding up and down the coast with their outstretched arms, the shrimp trawler has become a seaside icon throughout the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Painters, poets, writers, and musicians have recorded shrimp trawlers to feed our nostalgic interest in harvesting the sea, but little has been done to record the history of shrimping, the boats, and the families who built and operated them. St. Augustine doesn’t claim to be the birthplace of modern shrimping, but for much of the 20th century St. Augustine was the shrimp boat capital of the country.

Deadman's Wreck


The Gulf Breeze peninsula sticks out into Pensacola Bay from the east, dividing the bay proper from Santa Rosa Sound to the south. Just off the northern side near the peninsula tip is a little spit of land called Deadman’s Island. This small patch of sand harboring scrubby trees and prickly-pear cactus forms a sheltered cove that has been used for centuries by mariners plying the waters of Pensacola Bay and the surrounding Gulf of Mexico. With a shallow, sandy bottom that slopes off to deep water with good holding ground, the island was recognized very early by European colonists as a prime location to careen their ships for cleaning.

The Lost Treasures of the Santa Margarita


Inconveniently for mere mortals, serendipity is not concerned with time, so twists of fate often pass unknown, witnessed only by the sun, wind, and ripples on the sea. For W. Keith Webb and the team of the shipwreck search and discovery company Blue Water Ventures of Key West, the quest for the famed treasure galleon Santa Margarita has been as much about discovering her mysteries as in uncovering her treasures. The saga of the Santa Margarita begins in 1622. Namesake of the patron saint of homeless people, midwives and reformed prostitutes, Santa Margarita was a Spanish galleon of 600 tons, armed with twenty-five cannon.

Uncovering the Mysteries of the Brick Wreck


The waters surrounding Pensacola, Florida, are host to many unique shipwreck sites spanning the last four and a half centuries. One such site is the Brick Wreck, a 19th-century wooden ship associated with Pensacola’s brick industry. The site was first discovered during a remote-sensing survey of Pensacola Bay conducted by a team of underwater archaeologists from the University of West Florida in 2006. Subsequent dives on the site revealed a submerged brick pile, but nothing else to indicate the presence of a shipwreck.

On the Hunt for Old Bottles


I taught scuba diving at the Y for many years. The classes were always full and I’d have large classes for lecture and pool sessions. There was discipline in diving in those days, and I had five assistant instructors each session to help. It’s not always easy to catch on to a skill the first time, and practice makes perfect. My assistant instructors could drill delinquents while I kept the class moving along. After the class and pool session I treated for pizza.

Magic of the Crystal Skull

Crystal Skull

Ocean explorers in West Palm Beach found the treasure of Hernan Cortez. The cargo contained Aztec crystal skulls. The ship was lost in a fire at sea. It burned to the water line then sank in deep water off Florida’s coast. Diver, art expert and undersea explorer Dr. Victor Benilous was contacted by a representative of the Cortez family and given information about the shipwreck. It contained a log entry from another captain that reported seeing a fire out in the Atlantic 250 years ago. More…

Bayport Underwater


Every year thousands of people gather in Brooksville, Florida, for the Brooksville Raid Civil War Reenactment, but many people are unaware of the Civil War history that exists just ten minutes down the road in Bayport. This small village, located at the mouth of the Weeki Wachee River, emerged as a major port for Hernando County in the 1850s, exporting cotton, farm produce, and timber for local pencil factories. During the Civil War, Florida played a crucial role in providing beef and salt to the Confederate armies.

Dan Sedwick: Where Does Sunken Treasure Go?

Dan Sedwick

Did you ever wonder where all the treasure brought up from sunken Spanish galleons lost off the Florida coast goes? What happens to those fabulous finds from sunken ships lost ages past in hurricanes and storms around the world? Intrepid, daring explorers and treasure hunters appear in the news with great discoveries located after meticulous research in dusty s. For many, like the late Mel Fisher, discovery of the legendary Atocha and Santa Margarita was the culmination of a life’s dream and 17 years work and sacrifice.

Take a Virtual Adventure: Florida’s Museums in the Sea

Museums in the Sea

The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research has announced completion of the state’s Underwater Archaeological Preserve website, Museums in the Sea. The site includes detailed, high-resolution images and videos of eleven shipwrecks, along with descriptions and photographs of the biology and marine life found at each wreck. The maritime history of each vessel is presented together with historic photos and artists’ renditions of the ships afloat. Perhaps the most innovative feature of the website is the virtual underwater tour of each shipwreck.

Lofthus Underwater Archaeological Preserve

Lofthus Wreck

The twisted remains of an iron-hulled ship called Lofthus lie in the clear water off Manalapan, Florida. Although fairly shallow, at only 15-20 feet deep, the wreckage is subject to strong currents that run along the east coast of the state. These currents move massive amounts of sand which sometimes nearly cover the wreck site. At other times, the sand is moved away, allowing diving visitors an opportunity to see the framing and internal structures of a late 19th-century metal-hulled sailing ship.

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