ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (WFLA) — Construction crews in Florida unearthed a shipwreck from the 19th century while working on a road project in downtown St. Augustine last week.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), crews discovered the nearly intact wooden vessel while working on State Road A1A near the Bridge of Lions for a draining improvement project that began earlier this year.

FDOT archeologists and experts believe the well-preserved boat is from the mid-to-late 1800s.

“We believe the vessel may have sunk unexpectedly and, over time, was silted in. That is why it was preserved so well — it was encapsulated in soil and mud, so there was no air contact for it to decay. It’s truly an incredible find,” District 2 Secretary Greg Evans said in a statement.

Since the area is historic in nature, FDOT started working with Southeastern Archaeological Research (SEARCH), a maritime archaeology team, which was able to help with the excavation.

The vessel remained wet during the excavation to preserve it.
Credit: Florida Department of Transportation, District Two

“With every project we undertake, the Florida Department of Transportation is sensitive to the unique needs of the communities we serve, including the potential presence of historical sites and artifacts within construction sites,” Evans added. “We are grateful to our partners at SEARCH for their careful efforts to preserve this vessel, and we look forward to learning more about its significance to the region.”

Dr. James Delgado, Senior Vice President at SEARCH, who led the excavation and recovery of the boat, said experts believe the vessel was likely used to extract fish and shellfish from coastal waterways and offshore in the 19th century.

“We believe the vessel to be a small single-masted, shallow-draft sailing craft of the 19th century that was likely used to extract fish and shellfish from coastal waterways and directly offshore,” he said. “With a dedicated team, including support from the local community and the on-site construction team, we were able to extract the vessel in order to allow the important work on the community’s infrastructure to continue. We greatly appreciate FDOT’s commitment to cultural resources and in retaining SEARCH for this project.”