By Kimberly Blair - PNJ
An avid snorkeler all of his life, Robert Turpin dreamed of discovering one of the many shipwrecks sprinkled on the bottom of local bays and the Gulf of Mexico — the legacies of Pensacola’s rich maritime past.
“Our waters are filled with shipwrecks, most of them unknown or undiscovered,” said Turpin, Escambia County’s marine resources division manager.
“The possibility of discovering one is there anytime you go into the water, particularly after a storm.
Still, that possibility is rare for recreational snorkelers.
But thanks to $7,000 from the county and help from the Florida Public Archeology Network and University of West Florida’s marine archeology program, snorkelers will at the very least get to explore a replica of an ancient shipwreck.
Turpin is overseeing the installation of the replica at a snorkeling reef in Santa Rosa Sound off Park West at Pensacola Beach.
On Friday, Turpin and county contractors began constructing the replica to provide an opportunity for the public to see what it feels like to snorkel or scuba dive the remnants of a centuries-old sunken galleon.
The goal, beyond tugging at one’s imagination about finding pirate treasure, is to spark interest and appreciation in Pensacola’s rich nautical heritage and drum up eco-tourism, Turpin said.