In the shallow waters off Emanuel Point, the lower hull of what was once a large, wooden sailing ship, weighed down by ballast stones, gradually settled into the sand, and became entombed for centuries by layers of shells and sediments. A violent storm had caused the ship to strike the outer edge of a sandbar, and repeated pounding of the hull, as it lay on its port side, caused planks and frames to break open, sealing the vessel’s fate. Grounded in less than three brazas (fathoms) of water at Bahía de Santa María de Filipina, in the Mar del Norte, the ship had reached its last port of call. Fortunately, after the storm abated, some of the vessel’s equipment and cargo were accessible below decks, and could be salvaged.
The ship’s keel had been laid some years earlier in a Spanish shipyard; its shipwrights and carpenters followed the traditional methods of building blue-water merchant vessels for the Atlantic trade. They chose seasoned timbers of white oak, tested over centuries of seafaring for its soundness and durability. According to the construction contract, they were to build a nao or galeón of just over 400 toneladas, equipped for safety with two pumps, instead of one. Prefabricated frames, shaped to templates, were erected at primary stations along the keel to give the hull its general form. Then secondary frames, each carefully carved to follow the hull’s gradual rising and narrowing body, were inserted between the principal frames from bow to stern. Those at the stern, where the hull narrowed to meet the sternpost, were notched out to fit over the keel. The last few tail frames also fit over a long, curved knee, which braced the sternpost to the keel.
A heavy keelson, notched along the bottom at the prescribed intervals, was set into place over the frames and bolted to the keel. The thickest part of the keelson was fashioned with a large mortise to hold the heel of the ship’s mainmast. At the bottom of the mortise, a shipwright chiseled a cross, perhaps to mark the location of the main frame at the widest part of the hull. Just behind the mortise, carpenters had cut out concavities for a pump shaft on either side of the keelson. Once in place, the mast step area of the keelson was supported on each side by four small transverse buttress-es to prevent lateral shifting of the assembly under the stress of sail. Between the buttresses, carpenters fashioned thin boards, which covered the open spaces to the bottom of the hull, but could be lifted to inspect the area for trash that might clog the bilge. As this work progressed, one of the men inadvertently left a small gimlet, or auger, behind; later, he could not remember what had become of it.
Other workmen laid internal planking inside the hull, fastening it to the frames below. Strakes of ceiling planks, on either side of the thick footwale, would help to protect the frames and outer hull planking from shifting cargo and ballast stones. Some had to be custom fit, especially around the buttresses and pump sumps. To isolate the sumps from ballast and cargo that might interfere with the pumps, carpenters constructed a box to enclose the area. As this job was being completed, scraps of wood, one of which had been idly whittled into the shape of a ship, found their way into the pump well.
Meanwhile, a team of men on the outside of the hull bent long strakes of planking to the frames and pinned them in place with hundreds of wrought-iron nails. After each was securely fastened, the caulkers began their work. Seams between planks were scraped and scored to allow the insertion of tarred oakum, which was pounded home with irons and mallets. At the stern, wrought-iron rudder fittings, or gudgeons, were bolted to the sternpost. They had been made to fit the hull by blacksmiths, who bent and welded straps of bar stock over forged rings to serve as hinges for the rudder, which was being fitted with corresponding fittings called pintles. The pintles were similarly forged, but with a pin instead of a ring.
Once the ship had been framed, decked, and planked, it was ready to be launched into the water, and fitted with masts, rigging, and superstructure. Before launching, the hull was partially filled with fixed ballast culled from cartloads of the larger stones delivered to the shipyard by the ballast mongers. The mongers collected stones where they could, from rock quarries, river banks, beaches, and ballast dumps. Cobbles of dense, water-worn stone were placed at the bottom of the hold; between them were spread smaller cobbles and pebbles to form the initial layer of ballast that would keep the ship upright while its fitting out was completed dockside.
Shipowners and shipwrights knew from sorry experience that ships entering the Indies trade quickly were besieged by worms that found their way into the wood below the waterline and soon consumed it. Warm waters of American ports, where a merchantman might lay idle between ladings, accelerated the shipworms’ inevitable attack; prevention was less expensive than remedy. Worms would enter the hull at the vulnerable open-grain ends of the planks, and at the seams between them. While the newly-built ship was still on the ways, sheets of lead were unrolled and cut into long strips; barrels of wrought-iron, flat-headed tacks were brought from the yard storehouse; old sailcloth was collected, and tar buckets made ready. Workers set about laying up the tarred cloth along planking seams below the anticipated water-line of the hull. Next, they nailed the strips of lead over vertical and horizontal seams, taking care to pound an additional row of tacks directly into the oakum-filled seams. The sheathing not only covered seams, but would serve to prevent their caulking from coming loose as the ship’s hull worked at sea. As an added measure of protection, the arms of the gudgeons also were covered with sheathing, since the fasteners to these fittings tended to work in the wooden hull and eventually offer opportunity for worm infestation at this critical area.
When the expensive and labor-intensive task of sheathing was completed, the ship was launched, and its rudder installed. Made of two heavy balks of straight timber let into each other, joined on edge, and through-bolted, the rudder (like the ship it would serve) was a marvel of craftsmanship. Designed to capture water currents delivered to it by the narrowing of the hull below the waterline, the rudder was just wide enough to serve as a foil, but not so wide as to become unwieldy to operate. Custom-fitted with pintles that wrapped around the entire structure, the rudder was hung into gudgeons at the sternpost. The task of hanging the rudder involved careful alignment and coordinated engineering, since the rudder’s forward face had been designed with recessed slots at each pintle that would only allow the pins to fit into their respective gudgeon rings when the rudder was inserted into place from the port side of the ship. This clever arrangement allowed not only a close fit with little tolerance in the hinges, but maximized the juxtaposition of wood surfaces between the sternpost and rudder.
Masts were inserted into the hull and made fast with standing rigging, which was fine tuned, then tarred to make it weatherproof. Spars to carry sails were fixed to the masts and rove with the tackle of running rigging, made of hemp and Spanish esparto grass. At the same time, carpenters finished their tasks of installing internal bulkheads, taking care to strengthen the powder storeroom (rancho de Santa Barbara), and building the superstructure above the main deck. The forecastle (tilla) rose above the heavy beak (espolón) that projected from the stempost. On top, an open platform (castillo), surrounded with a low bulwark and rail, offered a strategic location for mariners to work the rigging of the foresail and spritsail, and to deploy weapons during a sea battle. The sterncastle (tolda) consisted of a half deck that served as an open bridge, from which the captain and officers commanded the vessel and the mariners worked the running rigging. Below it was a partially enclosed area for the rudder tiller and navigational apparatus. Above the tolda was the quarter deck (cuadra cubierta), the highest part of the superstructure, which was used for conning the ship. Below it was an enclosed roundhouse (chupeta), where the commander of the ship had his private cabin. The quarter deck and the roundhouse made up the toldilla, which encompassed the after portion of the half deck, immediately above the steering station on the main deck.
To complete fitting out of the ship, hemp cables (guindalesas) for mooring, anchoring, and docking were taken aboard, as well as wrought-iron anchors ranging in size from the large, sheet anchor (ancla de salvación) to a small grappling hook (cloque). Forward of the mainmast in the hold, the ship’s galley was equipped with a cookstove (fogone) mounted on tiles, a large, copper cauldron (caldera), and various other cooking implements, including a copper pitcher lined with tin for heating liquids. The ship was now ready for its first voyage. A universe of other items, such as arms, artillery, and ammunition, spare nautical equipment and utensils, and medical supplies, all would be added to the ship’s complement, as would crew, passengers and provisions, according to the purpose and destination of the new vessel.
The ship’s sailing career took it to Spanish-American waters, where it deliver-ed European goods and products needed in the colonies. One product, quicksilver, was delivered to the port of San Juan de Ulua to be used in the silver mines of New Spain. Difficult to transport, the liquid mercury had to be loaded at the last minute in Spain, since its corrosive nature tended to rot its packing, causing leakage. Poured into sheepskin bags bound with hemp rope, the mercury was placed in a small oak cask, which was nailed shut. Three such casks fit into a rectangular wooden chest, with a tightly nailed lid. The King’s coat-of-arms was painted on a linen cloth attached to each chest, since mercury was a strictly controlled royal monopoly. Bound with heavy rope, each chest was wrapped in coarse matting and bound again. Nonetheless, before the voyage was over, some of the King’s mercury had managed to escape and work its way to the bottom of the ship, where it could not be recovered.
On another voyage, the ship carried New World products back to Spain. One of these products may have been cowhides, loaded in either New Spain or the island of Hispaniola, where cattle industries thrived. Accompanying this cargo were hungry-beetles, of a species that feeds on stored leather goods, and other substances with a high protein content. Several of these hide beetles remained with the ship after the cargo reached its destination; their wing covers had migrated down into the bilge.
Passengers and crews on Spanish vessels in the 16th century depended on sea rations that consisted of wine, salted pork and fish, beans and peas, oil, vinegar, garlic, rice, and sometimes cheese or beef. Evidence of these staples aboard the ship includes the bones of domestic pig, cow, sheep or goat, and chicken. Several specimens exhibit butchering marks, suggesting that they were part of standard provisions prepared before the voyage by boiling and salting. Chickens may have come aboard live to be consumed by their passenger owners. Although fish probably was among the staple diets on the ship, fish elements found among the materials at the bottom of the hold are typical of Gulf of Mexico varieties, and probably were deposited in the ship after it wrecked. Thus far, no evidence of wine, indicated by the presence of grape seeds or other residues, has been found.
Supplementary to sea rations, edible fruits and nuts were consumed aboard the ship during its sailing career. Traditional Mediterranean food items, such as olives, plums or prunes, cherries, and hazelnuts, are represented by dietary remains found in the ship’s bilge. Other fruits, such as papaya and sapote, and nuts, such as coconuts, hickory, and acorn, reflect the ship’s operation in the Caribbean tropics and in the temperate northern Gulf of Mexico. Although the latter two nut varieties may be intrusive to the shipwreck, they could have been carried as fodder for live animals, such as pigs.
Inevitably, unwelcome stowaways boarded the ship along with provisions. Their eggs, perhaps borne in hampers of sea biscuit from the bakers, hatched in the darkness of the bread locker below decks. Despite every effort to rid the vessel of the uninvited pests, cockroaches (curianas) multiplied in the dim and humid recesses of the hold, taking over the galley at night, after the cookstove was extinguished. Jokingly called “game birds” by the crew, they competed for sustenance at sea with larger stowaways—the rodents. Black wharf rats (ratones) colonized the ship’s bilges, constantly gnawing into foodstuffs that became partially consumed and contaminated during the voyage. Apart from being a nuisance, the rats also carried disease, and for this reason they periodically were hunted down by the ship’s crew under direction of the boatswain. Compared with the “game birds,” these larger “game” had a harsher existence aboard the ship. Their remains exhibit evidence of rickets (a growth-stunting condition caused by lack of essential vitamins), poor dental health, and cannibalism. Aside from cockroaches and rats, the ship was occupied by common house mice, whose remains also were present in the bilge. This discovery, in light of the more numerous rat population, suggests that mice had developed their own niche in the floating ecosystem, and perhaps should be called ship mice, instead of house mice.
As with most wooden sailing vessels, the Emanuel Point Ship required constant maintenance and repairs during its career at sea. Many larger ports along the Spanish-American trade route offered facilities and manpower with which to clean ship’s bottoms and to patch or replace worm-eaten and leaking planks. Some leaks could be stopped at sea in an emergency by divers, who descended below while the ship lay to, with tarred lead patches that were quickly nailed to the hull. However, in the safety of a harbor, more permanent repairs could be effected between voyages. The ship was tied broadside to a wharf in shallow water, its ballast laboriously offloaded by hand to lighten the hull, and then hauled over with winches and tackle to expose the hull below the waterline. During this careening operation, marine growth, such as barnacles and weed, was scraped away by gangs of local laborers, who also applied fire with torches passed over bare planks in an attempt to kill shipworms by heat and smoke. Worn lead sheathing was removed and replaced; the old lead probably was recycled at the repair yard, or sold as scrap to the lead mongers. Planks judged beyond repair were replaced by others, custom-fit into place, then caulked and tarred. When one side of the hull had been cleaned and repaired, the tackle was relieved to allow the hull to come back on an even keel, and rotated 180 degrees. The same process then was repeated on the opposite side of the hull.
Although accumulations of rotting marine organisms, fouled wood and caulking, and hot tar made these tasks unpleasant, especially in tropical ports, the concurrent job of clearing the hold of slimy ballast stones could become unbearable, even with all the hatches opened. Stenches from the bilge, trash, and the panic of scurrying pests, conspired to discourage even the most hardened workers in the darkness of the lower hold. Once cleared, the bilges were doused with diluted vinegar in an attempt to offset the effects of their rank recesses on the repairmen, who began to inspect waterways, pumps, and internal framing. During one such inspection of the interior of the Emanuel Point Ship, workmen may have discovered a tailframe in need of replacement. The sixth frame forward of the sternpost was noted during excavation of the stern to have a forward rake, compared to the others, which raked slightly aft. Perhaps Frame 6 was installed subsequent to the others, by different shipwrights, perhaps at a later date during repairs. This frame also was fashioned from a different type of hardwood, as yet not conclusively identified.
Careening completed, the ship was reballasted. Depending on its next mission, the amount of stones was adjusted accordingly. Although the hull required a standard amount of “permanent” ballast to offset the effects of wind and waves, a heavy complement of artillery and ammunition on board, or a cargo of quicksilver in the hold, would require less additional ballast than a lightly-armed merchantman carrying a consignment of leather goods and dyestuffs. With most of the larger stones in place, “filler” stones from the ballast dump were brought aboard and distributed in the hold, until the attitude of the hull in the water was gauged appropriate for its anticipated load. Perhaps it was at this point that a small copper coin, out of circulation for years, made its way into the ship along with recycled ballast that had served a succession of ships over time.
On its last voyage, the Emanuel Point Ship appears to have been lightly ballasted, as would have been appropriate for an armed ship, carrying heavy cargo. Judging from the overall extent and depth of ballast stones present on the shipwreck site, the ballast alone would not have been sufficient to adequately stabilize the vessel under sail. Although no remains of ship’s cargo are visible on the surface of the ballast mound, clues to the cargo composition may turn up, since only a small portion of the site has thus far been investigated. Similarly, although no cannons have yet been found, a variety of ammunition (stone, composite, lead, and iron shot) recovered from excavations in the ship’s stern, indicates that the ship carried a battery of heavy shipboard artillery, some of which may have been mounted to fire from the stern. In addition, the discovery of ammunition for rapid-firing swivel guns suggests that these weapons were present on the ship, either deployed from gunwales in the sterncastle, or housed there in storage for eventual use. Finally, discovery of body armor (an encrusted breast plate) in the stern suggests that at least a few persons on board were prepared for personal combat, either at sea or ashore.
Putting aside for a moment the question of Emanuel Point Ship’s destination, there are clues to its port of embarkation. Ceramic sherds from at least three different pots, identified as a post-classic native Aztec style made in the Central Valley of Mexico, were found in close proximity at the stern of the vessel. Unlikely as cargo, since the presence of these unusual ceramics has not been reported elsewhere on colonial shipwreck sites, the native pottery may have belonged to a person, or persons, on board the ship. The pottery style—especially the burnished and painted, molded facial design—is indicative of a ceremonial, rather than utilitarian, vessel that would have been used on special occasions by persons of special status. Whether the owner, or owners, of the pottery were Aztecs or Spaniards is, at this point, a topic for speculation. However, this personal connection with the Aztec (and subsequent Spanish) capital of Mexico suggests that the ship embarked from the principal Mexican port of San Juan de Ulua (Veracruz).
Although only approximately 15% of the shipwreck site, as surveyed, has been excavated, sufficient clues have been revealed to provide a general date for the Emanuel Point Ship. Based on limited investigations of the site and analysis of finds reported herein, the ship’s last voyage occurred no later than the third quarter of the 16th century. The earliest datable artifact thus far recovered is, of course, the Henry IV coin, minted in Spain between 1471 and 1474. This find provides an absolute, if eccentric, terminus post quem (date after which) for the ship’s arrival in Pensacola. A more realistic, if general, earliest date after which the voyage occurred is 1556, when mercury began to be imported to New Spain in quantity aboard ships from Spain. As for a terminus ante quem (date before which) for the ship’s last voyage, examples of ceramics offer the best clues. The Aztec pottery sherds, if actually associated with Cuauhtitlán potters, would have been from pots made prior to 1576, when a massive epidemic of plague caused a sudden decline in production. More significantly, the larger collection of Spanish Olive Jar fragments recovered from the site consists predominantly of a type that was superseded by another style by 1580. A smaller number of lead-glazed sherds of the Melado variety are dated from Spanish sites inhabited between 1492 and 1550. These preliminary clues suggest that the ship embarked on its last voyage sometime between the 1550s and 1570s.
The identity of the Emanuel Point Ship remains a mystery. One hypothesis proposes that the vessel was sailing from Veracruz to Havana, along the traditional maritime route back to Spain, when it strayed off course far to the north and entered Pensacola Bay, perhaps seeking shelter, or water and wood. Inside the bay, it was trapped by a storm, which stranded the ship near Emanuel Point. The wreck’s location, well into the recesses of the bay, suggests that the ship had come into the bay before it grounded on the sandbar. Damage to the hull, as noted on the port side during midships excavations, could have resulted from striking a coral reef or rocky shoal; however, neither of these features is known to exist in Pensacola Bay. Rather, the ship appears to have grounded during a violent storm of sufficient severity to break open its hull by pounding on the sandbar during heavy seas. Unable to be refloated, the vessel was salvaged of its cargo and nautical apparel. Survivors of the incident may have been rescued; accounts of their ordeal and the loss of their ship would have been duly recorded in the files of Spanish maritime commerce. Archival research of mid-sixteenth-century shipping records, as well as correspondence between the viceroyalty of New Spain and the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) in Seville, may disclose details of this isolated episode and perhaps the identity of the ship.
A much more likely hypothesis asserts that the Emanuel Point Ship was one of the vessels of Tristán de Luna’s fleet, which succumbed to a hurricane in September 1559. Evidence for this is circumstantial: the ship’s location inside the bay suggests that Pensacola was its destination, and the characteristics of its violent deposition on a sandbar near shore are consistent with a hurricane loss. Having reached their intended objective, Luna’s ships were anchored near the site chosen for settlement when the storm struck. Apparently, not all of the ships had been unload-ed; a large portion of the supplies for the soldiers were lost as one ship grounded. In the aftermath of the hurricane, many usable materials undoubtedly were salvaged from the partially sunken wrecks, other objects were irretrievable and supplies were spoiled by water damage. Although investigation of the shipwreck is far from complete, the absence of cargo materials on the surface of the site suggests that portions of the ship’s contents not carried away during the wrecking event were subsequently salvaged. Proximity to shore and the shallow water depth would have facilitated this task, although many objects, such as the copper pitcher and cauldron, the breast plate and ammunition, were not recovered from the wreck.
Analyses of artifacts recovered during limited excavations also have provided a proposed date range (1550s to 1570s) for the ship’s last voyage, which narrowly encompasses that of the Luna expedition (1559-1561). In addition, discovery of Aztec pottery provides a link with the Central Valley of Mexico, from which the Luna venture initially was organized and staffed. Assuming for a moment that the ship was part of Luna’s fleet, it must have been one of the larger vessels, if preliminary estimates of its tonnage (418 - 441 tons) are reliable. As outlined earlier, it appears that six or seven of the fleet of eleven ships were lost in the September storm: the Andonaguín galleon, a barca, and either four or five naos. The tonnage of only three of Luna’s ships is known from initial perusal of several documents relating to their lading: nao San Andrés (498 tons), nao or caravel Espiritu Santo (42 tons), and nao Santa María de Ayuda (100 tons). Tonnage of the galleon and other naos San Antón, Santiago, and Santo Amaro are, as yet, unknown. Assuming that the remains of the hull are too large to represent those of a barca, frigata, or caravel, the most likely candidates for the Emanuel Point Ship are either a galleon or nao. But which one?
To solve the mystery of the Emanuel Point Ship, collection of additional archaeological and archival evidence is necessary. Continued exploration of the shipwreck and the waters around it will undoubtedly produce a myriad of clues to the ship’s size, function, and final voyage, as well as its association with the potential remains of other early shipwrecks in this part of Pensacola Bay. To date, only 15% of the shipwreck site has been investigated to produce a preliminary picture that firmly establishes only its obvious antiquity and cultural affiliation. As with any archaeological site, this amount of evidence is insufficient to attempt conclusions as to the identity of the vessel and its role in the early European exploration of Florida. As a rule, archaeological research on a historic site cannot provide adequate and accurate interpretation without the benefit of concurrent archival investigation with which to compare material findings. To date, only a few documents concerning the Luna expedition have been consulted, providing a partial glimpse of a forgotten episode that does not include sufficient particulars of the ships and their loss to support a conclusion that places the Emanuel Point Ship in the Luna fleet. Additional collection of archival data, aimed at filling in these historical gaps will provide a fuller record with which to compare the archaeological discoveries.
Hopefully, the discovery and initial exploration of Emanuel Point Ship, as detailed in this report, will help to encourage further archival research and additional underwater archaeological investigations. Recommendations to these ends are outlined in the following section, and if implemented, will help to determine whether the shipwreck is, indeed, what it appears to be—one of the larger ships of the Luna fleet that wrecked in Pensacola Bay in 1559.