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Preservationists race to save shipwreck on Florida beach

March 31, 2018

SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Preservationists say they are racing against time as they try to save a shipwreck that washed up on a Florida beach.

The Florida Times-Union reports that the wreck appeared late Tuesday on a St. Johns County beach.

The state has given the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum permission to move the wreckage away from waves that have been battering it. But that has proven to be a difficult job.

Two pieces of heavy equipment arrived at the site Thursday to try to lift the wreck, but they each got stuck in the thick sand themselves.

A museum crew has driven stakes into the sand around the 48-foot partial hull and lashed down the wreckage to try to keep the ocean from dragging it back, said spokeswoman Tonya Creamer.

Creamer said the wreck is owned by the state since it washed up on state property at the Guano Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Museum officials said the ship likely dates to the early 1800s.

Crews from the lighthouse and maritime museum have been documenting the wreck with photos and videos, from which they can create a 3-D model of what it looked like.

Meanwhile, people have knocked off wooden pegs that the ship’s builders used to join one plank to another, and some have taken pieces of broken timber.

Julia Turner reported the wreck to police Wednesday morning. Since then, a steady stream of onlookers have been crossing the oceanfront property Turner’s parents rented in South Ponte Vedra Beach as a vacation home.

Turner said her husband confronted a man approaching the wreck with a power saw.

“My husband was like, ‘Dude! It’s probably an 18th-, 19th-century ship, there are archaeologists on the way. You can’t touch it,’” said Turner, who lives in Vilano Beach.

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Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com

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