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  Week 5   Underwater   Program Menu
  Program 21 Luna Shipwreck 
      In shallow waters near downtown Pensacola lie the second oldest shipwrecks ever found in U.S. waters. They were part of the 1559 Luna expedition.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida.

Tristan de Luna was a conquistador and governor charged with establishing the first Spanish settlement north of Mexico. He sailed into Pensacola Bay with 1500 people aboard 13 ships…but before they could even unload… a hurricane struck, sinking 7 of the ships and all their contents.

In 1992, state underwater archaeologist Roger Smith found one of Luna’s ships. Protected by the soft muddy bottom of the bay, was a major portion of the hull and many artifacts, such as the ship’s 10-foot tall anchor, the encrusted mold of a soldier’s breastplate, and a silhouette carving of the ship herself.

14 years later, University of West Florida archaeologists discovered a second Luna ship resting just 400 yards away- some of their finds so far include stone cannonballs, wooden shafts of crossbow arrows, and rosary beads.

  Program 22 Urca de Lima
      In 1715, a Spanish fleet of 11 ships sailing from Cuba was struck by a hurricane off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. Only one was spared-the Urca de Lima.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, with Unearthing Florida…

The other ships in the fleet broke apart in the storm, but the Urca de Lima was washed ashore, but generally left intact. The Spanish were quick to salvage what they could from the grounded ship and then burned it to the waterline to keep it from falling into the hands of the English, Spain’s enemy at the time.

The wreck site was rediscovered when 16 cannons and 4 anchors were recovered in the 1920s. Over the next few decades modern salvage operations recovered one silver bar, two silver wedges, and five iron cannons. Other artifacts recovered from the Urca de Lima included a swivel gun, bar shot, and a large piece of copper ingot.

State archaeologists fully recorded the site in 1985 and designated it as Florida’s first underwater archaeological preserve two years later.

  Program 23 SS Tarpon
      The SS Tarpon was one of the unfortunate steamships in Florida’s maritime history.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense and this is unearthing Florida…

For over three decades SS Tarpon, built in the late Nineteenth Century, never missed its weekly trips hauling cargo and passengers along the gulf coast, but on August 30, 1937 the overloaded vessel encountered rough seas and gale force winds that put an end to the streak of good fortune.

Attempts by the 81-year-old captain to lighten the heavy-laden freighter were in vain, and the ship ultimately succumbed to the sea less than 8 nautical miles from the shores of Panama City. All cargo and 18 lives were lost.

Today SS Tarpon is the deepest shipwreck in the Florida underwater archaeological preserve. This 160 ft long sunken vessel has disintegrated over the years and much of it lies in pieces. But, the ships boilers, hull and deck plating, main engines, anchor chain and windlass still remain.

  Program 24 USS Massachusetts
      The USS Massachusetts rests silently beneath 26 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola- but unlike many shipwrecks she was put there on purpose.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

At one time Massachusetts was a marvel of modern engineering. First launched in 1893, and over a football field in length, she was one of the original heavily armored steel vessels in the US Navy. Following her service in the Spanish American war, she paraded around the world as part of the great white fleet celebrating the American victory. She then was used for gunnery exercises and as a training vessel.

Deemed obsolete after WWI, Massachusetts was stripped down and scuttled a mile and a half from the Pensacola Pass.

The state of Florida and citizens of Pensacola saved the ship from the scrap yard in the 195o’s. With her massive hull and gun turrets still intact, today she is part of Florida’s underwater archaeological preserve for divers to explore and fishermen to enjoy.

  Program 25 Newnan Lake Canoes
      When lakes dry up, amazing things are sometimes brought to light; such was the case at Newnan’s Lake, where ancient canoes were exposed.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

2000 was a very dry year, and as Florida’s lakes and sinkholes shrank, sunken water craft were revealed. But Newnan’s Lake near Gainesville topped them all. In fact, over 100 prehistoric canoes were found there.

Most of the canoes were made out of pine, but two were cypress. When the radiocarbon dates were determined, archaeologists all over the country were stunned…36 canoes were between three and five thousand years old! The others dated right up to historic times.

Because we know that water-logged organics can literally last forever in the oxygen-free bottom of quiet water bodies, these ancient canoes they were not removed. Instead, they were mapped, photographed, drawn to scale, sampled and left in place. Today the site is recorded and it has been placed on the National Register. While these ancient canoes are gone from view again, they are not forgotten.

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