Stormy Waters Carry a 19th-Century Shipwreck to Florida Beach

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iStock

Julia Turner and her 8-year-old son Patrick were looking at the ocean from a rented beach house Wednesday morning when they noticed something unusual heaped on the sand. Julia thought it might have been wood from a fence or a raised walkway, but Patrick saw something else. "When I looked out the window, it was immediately a ship," he told the Florida Times-Union.

The newspaper reports that the shipwreck washed up on Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville, Florida, the night of Tuesday, March 27. The debris doesn't include the full vessel—just a 48-foot segment of the hull—but from the remains alone, experts were able to estimate that the ship dates back to the 19th century or even the late 18th century.

Researchers from the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum visited the site Wednesday to study and document it. The copper tack heads they found in the wood suggest that the hull had once been sheathed in copper. The researchers also spotted wooden pegs and Roman numerals carved into the hull's ribs.

The remarkably well-preserved wreck was likely buried in the sand offshore for years before it was brought up by recent storm waves. Where the ship was built and where it went down is hard to determine. Debris from wrecks can travel hundreds of miles before finally making landfall.

Officially state property, the wreck remains on Ponte Vedra Beach, but the tide threatens to drag it back into the sea. Before they left, the museum researchers were able to take photos, video, and measurements of the hull, which can possibly be used to construct a 3D model of the ship.

When ships do end up on beaches via stormy waters, they tend to be a lot newer. Last September, Hurricane Irma dumped several "ghost ships" onto Florida's shores.

[h/t Florida Times-Union]

Laser Scans Detect Hidden Buildings and Tunnels Beneath Alcatraz Prison

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iStock.com/f8grapher

Isolated in the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by steep cliff faces, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary seemed like the most secure place to keep dangerous criminals in the mid-20th century. But it's recently come to light that every inmate on Alcatraz Island lived above a series of potential escape routes that predated the prison's construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a new study published in the journal Near Surface Geophysics, archaeologists reported their discovery of structures and artifacts beneath the Alcatraz prison yard, including underground buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines. Guided by historical maps, documents, and photographs, they used laser scanning technology and ground-penetrating radar to locate the subterranean fortress close to the surface.

The site dates back to the mid-19th century, when Alcatraz Island was used for military purposes. The same natural features that would later make Alcatraz an appealing prison also made it an ideal coastal fortification. Enough brick buildings were built there to house 200 soldiers and enough food was shipped in to feed them for four months.

But the fortification wasn't used for its original purpose for very long. It was transformed into the West Coast's official military prison during the Civil War, and in the 1930s, the government turned it into a federal prison. Instead of tearing down the forts and tunnels leftover from its military days, workers left them intact and built over them to save money. Archaeologists plan to investigate the underground structures further without disturbing the historic site.

Alcatraz Prison closed in 1963, so the underground tunnels no longer pose a security problem. Today the island is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

[h/t San Fransisco Chronicle]

The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Will Open to the Public in 2021

iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina
iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina

Besides being a sanctuary for stray cats, Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is best known as the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 22 times by assassins in 44 BCE. As the city's oldest open-air square, the spot is an important piece of Roman history, but it's fallen into disrepair. Now, Condé Nast Traveler reports that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen to the public following a $1.1 million restoration project.

The site includes four ancient temples, a medieval brick tower, and the ruins of the senate house where Caesar was murdered. About 20 feet below street level, it was excavated under the rule of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, and has remained largely closed to the public since. Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is overgrown and accessible only to the feral cats that live there.

On Monday, February 25, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi announced that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen in the second half of 2021. To get the site ready for the public, the city will add restrooms, install lights, and build walkways that allow visitors to explore the area. Stone ruins, some of which are stacked into piles, will be secured, and artifacts currently sitting in storage will be moved to a museum. The one area the project will avoid is the corner where the cat sanctuary is located.

Rome, of course, is filled with ancient ruins—some that residents weren't even aware of until recently. In 2014, a 2000-year-old Roman road was unearthed during the construction of a McDonald's.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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