Cannons clue to past

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is reflected, right, in a vat of fresh water that protects a carronade that was recently raised, along with a larger cannon, from a 200-year-old shipwreck a few miles from its present location on Friday afternoon 
Photo Daron Dean


By Ryan Buffa - St Augustine


Late last month, amid great fanfare, archaeologists raised two cannons from 30 feet under the ocean, just a short distance from the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Now those archaeologists of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program are trying to uncover the cannons' secrets. After centuries hidden below the sea, the cannons will have their stories to themselves a little longer.

"These were found in a jumble," said archaeological conservator for the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program Starr Cox. "It's pointing to all different directions."

Archaeologists believe the cannons sailed on a ship sometime between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and sank along with a ship off the St. Augustine bar, which is located within eyesight of the St. Augustine Beach Pier.

Everything else is a secret covered by cemented shells, ceramic pieces, a portion of a plate and a brick that remain embedded in the encrustation.

The cannons will go through extensive treatments over the next two years to remove the encrustation, a combination of iron corrosion product and sea sediment, that will eventually expose the marking that will show the cannons' origins, said Cox.

The next journey for the cannons begins where the story started -- with the cannons in the water. This time, however, the cannons are in fresh water in metal bath tubs covered by bed liner, the plastic tarps typically used to line ponds.

The tubs act as temporary storage units until the electrolysis process begins, said Cox. The cannons will remain in the freshwater baths for an undetermined amount of time.

Once removed from the fresh water baths, the cannons will be kept moist until it is time to begin chipping away at the cannons cement-like crust, said Cox. That should be in early August.

Next, the cannons will be placed in baths with an electric current, which forces chlorides out.


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St. Augustine Lighthouse Revolutionary War War of 1812 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program Starr Cox