Historical gold in a shipwreck off St. Augustine ?

By Dan Scanlan - Jacksonville

It sure didn’t look like the proverbial pot at the end of a rainbow as it emerged from an estimated 250-plus years of slumber 30 feet under the waves off St. Augustine.

Encrustations of century’s-old mud marred the cauldron’s shape as it was hauled onto the dive boat Wednesday by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program team.

But there could be historical gold in the pot removed from a shipwreck within sight of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Chuck Meide, Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program director, found what could be a spoon stuck inside.

Meide is hoping the cauldron is the key to unlocking a time capsule to a rare ship from St. Augustine’s bustling 1800s colonial period. He said only one colonial shipwreck has ever been found off Northeast Florida.

“This particular shipwreck was even harder to find because it was completely buried under the sand,” Meide said. “It makes it harder to find, but it also makes it a really great find because no one has ever dived it before and we don’t think anyone knows about it.”

Placed in an electrolysis tank to leach salt from its iron to preserve it, the cauldron could soon be on public display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum as it undergoes up to two years of cleanup.

More artifacts should be pulled up soon by the team and its high school interns in what lighthouse museum Executive Director Kathy Fleming said is another step in bringing the region’s maritime history to the community.

“It would be nice if it were a Spanish wreck. We don’t know. It might be British,” Fleming said. “We will find out more about the colonial period, engage more students and we will probably do more in the community.”

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