Debbie Thomas

Snowbird's find could be part of historic shipwreck

Snowbird Agnes Hand describes finding a piece of wood believed to be from an 1800s shipwreck along the shore behind the Regency Condominiums on Navarre Beach 
Photo Tony Giberson

By Kimberly Blair - PNJ

Snowbird Agnes Hand has spent every winter for a decade hunting several miles of Navarre Beach for seashells she carts back by the box to Casper, Wyo.

She's always on the hunt for the rarest of shells, the spotted junonia, considered the queen of shells.

But last week she and her shell-hunting buddy, Debbie Thomas, found something even rarer: a 7-foot-long piece of timber that most likely came from an 1880s shipwreck.

Hand and Thomas were so focused on looking for sand dollars and olive shells they walked right past the piece of wood that had just floated up behind Hand's winter home, Regency Condominiums.

"This man was taking photographs, and he said to me, 'Did you notice the pegs in the wood?' " Hand, 75, said.

The ladies wheeled around and took a closer look and discovered the timber had what are called treenails, hallmarks of 1800s-era craftsmanship.

"When I saw those pegs, I could not believe it," Hand said. "The round pegs told me it was very old, and I figured it must be older than me. I was sure it must have some value historically."

She and Thomas snapped photos of the wood. And the Pensacola Historical Society directed them to Della Scott-Ireton, director of the northwest region of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. She confirmed it most likely was from a shipwreck.

"We often do get fragments of shipwrecks offshore, especially after storms," Ireton said.