Thursday, January 05, 2006

 

Search on for "Reformation"

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Sun-Sentinel
By Charlie Reed
January 01, 2005

Dickinson's ship went down in 1696

HUTCHINSON ISLAND · Comparing centuries-old nautical maps, eyes sparkling with the prospect of finding a famed shipwreck off Martin County's coast, it seemed underwater archaeologists and local historians were preparing for a great treasure hunt.

But instead of gold, they're on a mission to find the final resting place of Jonathan Dickinson's Reformation, which sank offshore in the fall of 1696.

As Indians burned the ship and took Dickinson, his family and crew captive before marching them up the coast to St. Augustine. Although Dickinson's famed journal -- written after he escaped -- pinpoints where the ship foundered, no one has ever found it or really looked for it until now.

Gadgetry that could have saved the Quaker pioneer will be used to locate what's left of his vessel, "if anything," said Gordon Watts, director of the Institute for International Maritime Research. Shifting sands and mud likely have blanketed the wreck, "but that's good," Watts said, noting the materials' preservative qualities. "Sand is good. Mud is better."

The Washington, N.C.-based nonprofit group matched a $40,000 state grant landed by the Martin County Historical Society for the 14-day project, set to begin in early summer. Finding the Reformation could bring new historical perspective to the first encounters between the English and American Indians, Watts said.

Watts and state underwater archaeologist Roger Smith hope to uncover other shipwrecks in the seven-mile survey area just north of the St. Lucie Inlet.

Coastal waters from the inlet south to Lake Worth have been protected for their historical value since the late 1960s, Smith said. Anything uncovered during the excavation will become state property and will go on display at the Elliot Museum in Stuart.

With plans to raze and rebuild the 26,000-square-foot museum to almost three times its size, enhancing the collection with new finds would help establish the Elliot as one of Florida's top museums, said Renne Booth, director of development for the historical society.


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