Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Area historians seek grant to keep hunt for shipwrecks afloat


By Jeremy Ashton
January 03, 2007

HUTCHINSON ISLAND — The search for historical treasures off Martin County's coast could soon resume with some financial help from the state.

The Historical Society of Martin County has applied for a $50,000 grant to further survey the area's shipwrecks and restart the search for Quaker pioneer Jonathan Dickinson's ship Reformation. The grant requires the historical society and the Institute for International Maritime Research to contribute a matching $50,000 for the project.

The grant would fund a "search and identify" operation that would more closely inspect the most promising of the almost 800 shipwreck sites found off the southern Martin County coastline in May by the North Carolina-based institute.

Divers from the institute would have at least four weeks to search the sites for historically significant shipwrecks, including the Reformation.

Little likely remains of Dickinson's ship, which was burned in 1696 by Ais Indians after wrecking in what is now southern Martin County, said Robin Hicks-Connors, historical society president. But the pieces of the ship that are left would have regional and even national historical significance if they could be found, she said.

"Those artifacts help tell the story and help create a visual for people who might be interested in learning more about the history of the area," Hicks-Connors said.

The historical society could know more about whether the grant will come through when it appears before the Division of Historical Resources in March. The state agency ranked the grant that funded the May expedition as a high priority the year it was approved, Hicks-Connors said.

State Rep. William Snyder, R-Martin County, has written a letter to the agency supporting the grant and plans to push for it during the Legislature's budgeting process.

If found, the Reformation would provide an important connection back to the Treasure Coast's early history, Snyder said.

"Finding that shipwreck puts the finishing touches on the chapter," he said. "We know that boat's out there, and I would just love to see us find it."


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