Pensacola Shipwreck Survey
In 1990, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research received the first of a series of federal grants through the Florida Coastal Management Program to begin a pilot study of Pensacola Bay shipwrecks and to prepare a regional model for their management and protection. The Pensacola Shipwreck Survey was formed under the direction of Smith, with staff members Marianne Franklin and John Morris working with local volunteers. The project was housed in the city’s waterfront historical district in conjunction with the Historic Pensacola Preservation Board. During the first phase of the survey thirty-three sites of wrecked or abandoned vessels, ranging from colonial to modern in age, were located, recorded, and assessed. A survey report with classifications of sites and recommendations was published by the Bureau (Franklin et al. 1992). Included in the recommendations for future work were additional remote sensing surveys, and a formal survey of the USS Massachusetts, which had been nominated by local diver Larry Broussard to become Florida’s fourth Underwater Archaeological Preserve (Smith 1991).
The second phase of the Pensacola Shipwreck Survey began in 1992 with an expanded staff consisting of James Spirek, Della Scott, Michael Williamson, and Charles Hughson. Systematic mapping of the USS Massachusetts produced site plans with which to compare 1910 refit construction drawings of the ship. These archaeological data, combined with historical and archival materials, helped survey staff to produce a formal proposal for the new preserve, which was delivered to the public during a Second Conference on Maritime History and Archaeology in May 1992. The preserve officially opened the following year.
The primary goal of the second phase was to conduct remote sensing operations in the bay, with the intention of locating and recording additional colonial vessels. During planning of electronic survey operations, emphasis was placed on identifying areas of the bay associated with colonial maritime activities in Pensacola, especially those relating to the First and Second Spanish periods. Discussions as to the possibility of locating remains of the lost ships of the Tristán de Luna expedition prompted staff to design a survey strategy toward that end. Historical, geographical, and local knowledge were gathered to determine which areas of the bay should be prioritized for electronic scrutiny that might turn up sites dating to the targeted time periods. Areas selected were the northwest and southwest shores of Pensacola Bay near its entrance, the northwest and southwest extremities of the Gulf Breeze peninsula, and Emanuel Point near the mouth of Bayou Texar (Spirek et al. 1993).
Remote sensing operations began in early June 1992 and continued to September, followed by ground-truthing of accumulated targets through October. The magnetic survey package consisted of an EG&G Geometrics G-866 Proton Precession Recording Magnetometer with towed array, a SI-Tex LORAN-C position finder, and a Marine Tech fathometer. Side-scan sonar operations were conducted using a Klein Model 590 sonar with dual track recorder, and a Trimble Geographic Positioning System (GPS). The sonar equipment and its technical support were provided under contract by Alan Druin of A&A Research. To transport the electronic sensing equipment, a 21-foot survey boat with a crew of three persons was employed. Another 22-foot boat was used as a diving platform from which to investigate targets.
Casting a wide survey net over selected portions of the bay yielded many targets, both natural and manmade. However, the vast majority of targets that could be verified were revealed to be modern, ranging from metal cables to pizza ovens, from car bodies to construction debris, as well as dumped military and commercial trash. Many of these objects represented artificial reefs, intentionally deposited by fishermen to attract fish. Despite the preponderance of these byproducts of industrial Pensacola, the bay also contains the remains of its maritime past. Both electronic tools—the magnetometer and side-scan sonar—detected early shipwrecks.
Following remote-sensing operations at several survey tracts in Pensacola Bay, operations shifted in August to the shallow waters off Emanuel Point, which is one of the suspected Luna landfall locations in the bay. The search centered on a submerged sandbar extending from the bluff into the bay. The survey required two days to complete, the 27th and 30th of August 1992. Magnetometry covered a survey tract slightly under one 1.6 km2, and survey transects totaled over 15.5 linear km. Sampling interval for the magnetometer was set at two seconds and boat speed varied between 4 and 6 knots. LORAN, along with marker buoys, was used as positioning controls for the survey. Transects ran east to west and were spaced from 9 m to 12 m to ensure maximum coverage of the area under investigation. Moving from deeper water to the shallow sandbar, water depths in the survey area ranged from 1.5 m to 7.3 m. Approximately 55 magnetic anomalies were detected, of which slightly under 20 percent represented probable multiple encounters of the same object. Ground-truthing of the anomalies did not occur until a month later following side-scan sonar operations at the lower end of the bay in September. Unfortunately, bad weather combined with the shallow depths off Emanuel Point, rebuffed sonar attempts to obtain acoustical data on several promising magnetic anomalies. In October, divers visually inspected three primary anomalies in the survey area and discovered a tubular-steel tower for shrimp net rigging at one. Another magnetic target initially proved to be elusive, however later scrutiny determined that metal cable was the anomaly’s source. Investigation of the third anomaly revealed a low mound of ballast stones that appeared promising. Efforts immediately focused on assessing the ballast mound’s archaeological potential and the source of the 400-gamma magnetic beacon that had initially signaled its presence.
Shipwreck Sites Recorded
by the Pensacola Shipwreck Survey
- First Spanish Period 1513-1763
Emanuel Point Wreck (8ES1980)
- British Period 1763-1783
Deadman’s Wreck (8SR782) Town Point Wreck (8SR983)
- Second Spanish Period 1783-1821
Santa Rosa Island Wreck (8ES1905)
- Early American Period 1821-1861
Pickens Wreck (8ES1901)
- Civil War 1861-1865
Judah (8ES1904), Convoy (8ES1371)
- Maritime Industrial Expansion 1865-1906
Early 20th-Century Period 1906-1945
- Blackwater River Sites
Cedar Wreck (8SR1007), Snapper Wreck (8SR1001), Shield’s Point #1 (8SR997), Shield’s Point #2 (8SR998), Shield’s Point #3 (8SR1011), Shield’s Point #4 (8SR1012), Milton RR Swingbridge Hull (8SR1008), City of Tampa (8SR1010), Barge of Sanborn’s (8SR1013), Barge(s) off Dutchman’s Cut (8SR1002), Barge at #38 Marker (8SR1003), Barge south of Dutchman’s Cut (8SR1004), Marquis Basin Barge (8SR1005), Quinn Basin Barge (8SR1006), Baypoint Barge (8SR1009)
- Bayou Chico
Vessel at Runyan’s Shipyard (8ES1896), T137 Barge (removed), Barge off Clopton’s (8ES1905), West Leg Barge (8ES1902)
- Old Navy Cove
Deadman’s Punt (8SR1014), Centerboard Schooner (8SR996), Composite Hull (8SR1000), Cabradroca (8SR995), Marine Railway Debris (8SR999), Old Navy Cove Barge (8SR1249)
- Pensacola Bay and Offshore
Rhoda (8ES1899), Sport (8ES99), Windlass Site (8ES994), Drydock (8ES1903), USS Massachusetts (8ES1898), B Street Schooner (8ES1903), B Street Barge (8ES1904), Hamilton’s Wreck (8ES2245)