Sunday, May 22, 2005


Archaeologists believe the 100-year-old canoe came from Central America


TC Palm
By James Kirley
May 20, 2005

MOLLY BARTELS staff photographer.
County employee Tim Taylor hoists a dugout canoe to its final resting place
underneath a walkway at the Environmental Learning Center in Wabasso
on Thursday. Conservationists stabilized and preserved the more than
100-year-old artifact that can now be viewed by the public at the ELC.

WABASSO — Miskito Indians who gouged a 30-foot canoe out of a tree trunk in the late 19th century couldn't imagine it hanging in mid-air from a forklift, on its way to becoming an ocean science exhibit.

The primitive vessel's last voyage between Central America and Vero Beach was powered by ocean currents — liquid highways that have steered plants, animals and maybe even people between continents since prehistoric times.

"The canoe is sort of a hint," Vero Beach marine biologist Grant Gilmore said. "We tend to focus on man-made objects."
But lots of things ride the Caribbean Current to local shores from Honduras or Nicaragua — where state archaeologists believe the dugout canoe originated — and from other parts of Central and South America.

Several types of seeds collectively called sea beans arrive on the current, as have brown anole lizards that scamper through Treasure Coast yards, and Cuban tree frogs that ambush bugs next to porch lights.

"They ride on flotsam, on logs or dugout canoes — who knows what was riding along on that thing?" mused ecologist David Cox of Sebastian.

MOLLY BARTELS staff photographer.
County employee Solomon Berton, tries to figure out how he and a
group of volunteers are going to move a 30-foot dugout canoe that
weighs almost 800 pounds across a grassy area at the Environmental
Learning Center on Thursday. The canoe washed ashore on the beach
just south of Round Island Park in October 2002. The canoe has been
restored and will be on display at the Environmental Learning Center.

All that was temporarily lost on County Historian Ruth Stanbridge. She cringed Thursday as the forklift hoisted the artifact high into the air and pushed it through tall trees on its way to permanent display at the Environmental Learning Center on Wabasso Island.

"This may be the most exciting part of the trip," Cox said. "The first few thousand miles it was just bobbing along!"
That voyage ended October 2002, when a group of vacationing schoolteachers walking the beach near Round Island Park found the waterlogged dugout floating in the surf. They phoned Gilmore, who contacted Stanbridge, who contacted the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee.

They recommended the canoe be resubmerged to prevent the wood from drying and cracking. So county parks workers sank it in a freshwater pond behind their Hobart Park office.

It was visited by a state field archaeologist several weeks later. He decided it had been made using fire and metal tools, and estimated the canoe's age at a bit more than 100 years.

Dried in a shady area, the dugout was ready for moving to the Environmental Learning Center on Thursday.

Gilmore explained part of the Caribbean Current flows through the Florida Straits. Objects borne by it can then be picked up by the Gulf Stream, which flows north through the Atlantic Ocean and passes east of the Treasure Coast.

Fish make the trip, too. Gilmore said he recently found a species native to the Yucatan Peninsula near Belize living in Florida's Everglades.

"It was in a place where people wouldn't normally go to release aquarium fish," he said.

And the canoe reminded Gilmore of a theory he's nursed for years, that the extinct Ais Indians native to the Treasure Coast may have originated in Central America.

"We tend to think of the ocean as something that separates us," he said. "But the world's a lot smaller than we realize and the ocean brings us together."


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?