Thursday, March 17, 2005


Archaeologist to search for deSoto wreck


Herald Tribune
BY Amy Hibberd
March 14, 2005

An exciting project is set to begin this spring in Charlotte Harbor. Dr. Coz Cozzie, a local underwater archaeologist, will begin to survey the murky underwater terrain of Charlotte Harbor with a magnetometer. Cozzie and his crew will methodically sweep the harbor looking for clues to our area's past.

Cozzie discussed his research project before a packed house at Elsie Quirk Library during History Week. Mary Kay Chadwick Krantz and John Bass IV moderated the discussion, which included the evolution of Bass Labs to Cape Haze Marine Laboratory to Mote Marine.

Cozzie has had a lifelong interest in the submerged past, and his knowledge is encyclopedic.

Though there is some debate, Charlotte Harbor was explored by Ponce de León in 1513 and 1521; Hernando de Soto in 1539 and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1566.

DeSoto is reported to have scuttled a vessel on his way to trek up the phosphate-rich spine of Florida. Could he have scuttled that vessel in Charlotte Harbor?

If a methodical approach and years of experience is the deciding factor, Cozzie and his crew should have the answer.

"We often find ballast stones, a cannon or an anchor," he explained. He alluded to the rich history of the harbor, saying, "The Calusa were here and traversed the harbor for thousands of years, their canoes traveled through a series of canals to Lake Okeechobee.

"Those same Indians had an incredible network of communication," Cozzie continued. "They were able to meet Ponce de León with a force of 800 canoes in a single night." DeLeón received a mortal head wound and died in Havana.

Charlotte Harbor was also a hotbed of activity during the Civil War. Jacob Summerlin and other cattlemen supplied cattle to the troops via a series of cattle docks around Charlotte Harbor. Mr. Johnson was a blockade runner on the Peace River. Union troops burned four of his boats.

Earlier ships drew 10 to 12 feet, and Cozzie noted that many of the earlier vessels had to wait for the higher spring tides to enter the harbor safely. He plans to restrict his search to a depth of 10 feet or greater.

The magnetometer senses up to 50 feet, and the GPS can plot a straight line that will overlap on each pass.

Without such restrictions, Cozzie pointed out, "It would take three years of working every day to survey Charlotte Harbor."

Cozzie recalled the somewhat cavalier treatment Florida's native past has received at the hands of of Florida's bureaucrats.

"Years ago, Bill Royal dived Warm Mineral Springs and came up with a really old skull," Cozzie said. "The state archeologist disputed the age of that skull, but Bill Royal took the skull to Dr. Eugenia Clark's husband, a bone surgeon.

"He pronounced it to be thousands of years old and, amazingly, it still contained brain material."

Cozzie alluded to a complete skeleton that was found in a shipwreck from 1686 off the coast of Texas, saying "That skull contained brain material."

The Charlotte Harbor search should be very interesting.


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