Sunday, February 27, 2022


 27 February 2022: Spring looms as February grows thin and March blusters in! Soon we'll be back on the water and going to the beach. I know some of our readers are already enjoying those delights (including your 'umble scrivener) but for the rest, I am sure the warmer weather can't come soon enough! And speaking of swimming, here's a piece from the ABC TV affiliate in Savannah Georgia (the state in the U.S., not the country!)


 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently recovered 15 Revolutionary War-era cannons from the bottom of the Savannah River, but how exactly were they discovered and why were they in the river to begin with?

According to archaeologists, the Army Corps first discovered the cannons back in 2021 while dredging regular maintenance areas.

"When the dredging occurred and one cannon was pulled up and we pulled up two more, we realized there had to be something down there because it is so rare to find one specimen like this, so to find multiple was really remarkable," said Andrea Farmer, an Archaeologist with the U.S. AThe Army Corps ended up calling in a team of experts with the Commonwealth Heritage Group. Over the course of a year, they uncovered 12 additional cannons along with some other artifacts like cannonballs at a deep spot near Old Fort Jackson called Five Fathom Hole.

Farmer said, "We believe [these artifacts] came from British naval vessels."

Archaeologists told WJCL during the Revolutionary War, when a large French fleet suddenly appeared off the coast of Tybee Island, the British, who had control of Savannah at the time, took quick action.

It is believed they sunk several of their own vessels, including the Rose, Venus and Savannah, in order to block the channel. This prevented the French from helping the rebels.

Stephen James, Director of Maritime Division for the Commonwealth Heritage Group said, "We suspect the cannon are solely or predominantly from his majesty's ship, the Savannah."

Archaeologists said it is possible the British simply did not have time to remove the cannon from the vessels, and that's how they ended up in the water.

"Things happen quick. When you know the French are approaching, they got it done," James said.

The 15 cannon are now sitting in water baths. They'll remain in those water baths for quite some time in order to remove any salt. That will make it easier for experts to determine exactly when and where the cannon were manufactured.

 James said, "Once the salts come out, you are good to go. You can bring it out and look for maker marks." [ed:that process can take years!]

The Army Corps told WJCL it is possible more treasures are lying at the bottom of the Savannah River just waiting to be discovered.

"The Savannah River has a ton of secrets. There's probably thousands of ship wrecks in this river," Farmer said.


Of course, Savannah was important during the American Revolution and was occupied by the British from December 1778 until the end of the war in spite of American Patriot attempts to recapture in the Fall of 1779.

Until next time, 

                                     Fair Winds, 

                                            Old Salt

Sunday, February 20, 2022


 20 February 2022: Well, we're getting ready to close out February! Where has the time gone?! Seems like it should still be early January! We wrote in the past about the supposed discovery of the Spanish Galleon San Jose, sunk off the coast of Columbia South America. Conflicts with the Columbian government, private salvage firms, other countries (including Spain), and individuals have delayed any sort of recovery efforts, but now, it appears that the Columbian government has found what they claim is the wreck site and are going to salvage artifacts from the wreck, in spite of other claims for the booty. From CBS News:


 Colombia has taken a step toward recovering a long-lost Spanish wreck and its fabled riches, but it may be a rough ride as Spain and native Bolivians have also staked claims to the booty. Maritime experts consider the wreck of the San Jose to be the "holy grail" of Spanish colonial shipwrecks.

Long the daydream of treasure hunters worldwide, the wreck of the San Jose galleon was first located off Columbia's coast in 2015, but has been left untouched as the government determines rules for its recovery.

San Jose galleon

Colombia was a colony of Spain when the San Jose was sunk, and gold from across South America, especially modern-day Peru and Bolivia, was stored in the fort of its coastal city, Cartagena, before being shipped back to Europe.

The Colombian government considers the booty a "national treasure" and wants it to be displayed in a future museum to be built in Cartagena.

According to a presidential decree released Thursday, companies or individuals interested in excavating the ship will have to sign a "contract" with the state and submit a detailed inventory of their finds to the government as well as plans for handling the goods.

The uber-loot, which experts estimate to include at least 200 tons of gold, silver and emeralds, will be a point of pride for Colombia, Vice President and top diplomat Marta Lucia Ramirez said in a statement. The treasure could be worth billions of dollars if ever recovered.

"The sums of wealth are invaluable, and the responsibility of the protégés has already been extracted, contributing to the history of Colombia, the Caribbean and the world," she said.

Long the daydream of treasure hunters worldwide, the San Jose galleon was sunk by the British Navy on the night of June 7, 1708, off Cartagena de Indias.

The San Jose was at the time carrying gold, silver and precious stones which were to be delivered from the Spanish colonies in Latin America to the court of King Philip V.

Only a few of the San Jose's 600-member crew survived the wreck.

"It makes it very touchy because one is not supposed to intervene in war graves," Justin Leidwanger, an archaeologist at Stanford University who studies ancient shipwrecks, told Live Science in 2015. "Can you pluck treasure off the seabed without disturbing a war grave? I doubt you can. But these are the sort of discussions that will be had."

At the end of 2015, then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the discovery of the exact location of the wreck, which was confirmed by the ship's unique bronze cannons with dolphin engravings.

Colombia has said it will cost about $70 million to carry out a full salvage operation on the wreckage, which is at a depth of between 2,000 and 3,200 feet.

Spain says the wreck is its own, as a ship of state; and an indigenous group in Bolivia, the Qhara Qhara, says the treasure belongs to them, since their ancestors were forced to mine it from what was in the 1500s the world's largest silver mine.


So, maybe this treasure will actually see the light of day before too much more time passes! We'll watch for further developments. Too bad it's so deep - but I guess that has kept the site protected for so long.

Until next time,

                                  Fair Winds

                                      Old Salt

Monday, February 14, 2022


 14 February 2022: Back again after a short delay - was traveling without access to a computer (at least mine!) so blog post had to wait. We have an interesting piece for you today - about, of all things, a button. Read on (from FoxNews Weather);      



The simple sight of a button is usually something people take for granted, but to maritime archeologists in Florida, a recent discovery is nothing short of a historical treasure- a rare war trophy claimed by a British soldier on American soil.

Historians believe more than a dozen British ships were departing the Southeast around New Year’s Eve in 1782 when a strong nor’easter sunk the ships carrying soldiers and their war belongings, including the button.

Divers with the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum found some of the wreckage off the Florida coast in 2010 and brought items back to their facility.

But the dive was only half the story, many of the items that spent centuries at the bottom of the Atlantic cemented themselves in hardened sediment, leaving plenty of work for archeologists to perform.

 "Conservation takes a long time because a lot of these artifacts are found in what we call concretions, which is essentially like a rock with sediment that had built up over hundreds of years," Bobby Dye, a public relations representative for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum said.

Conservators use a process called air scribing to clean and remove the centuries-old build up and usually, up until this point in the process, no one has any ideas of what is actually in the rock-like forms. 

the tedium of this process must be awful!


Researchers previously found a ship’s bell, a rare swivel gun, shoe buckles, and spoons, but the museum said a discovery in December surprised even their most seasoned veterans.



"When conservator Andrew Thomson saw ‘U.S.A’ interlocked in Roman letters, it leads to questions on why U.S.A. button would be on a British shipwreck," Dye said.

Evidence of a British victory

Historians do not know the exact age of the pewter made button, but it’s believed that soldiers of George Washington’s Continental Army first started receiving uniforms with the decorative items soon after the nation’s birth on July 4, 1776.

The newly formed 13 states were fighting for their independence against the British as part of the American Revolutionary War.

Historians say many of the battles involved close combat, and when a soldier was victorious in a skirmish, it was common that he would collect a keepsake to return home with.

Buttons were easily stripped off the uniforms of the fallen, and researchers believe for a British soldier, his war trophy now rests at a lab in Florida.

"This button could very well be the first one ever found. We just aren’t sure," Dye said.

Discoveries may continue

The museum says their work with the button and other concretions brought back from the shipwreck more than a decade ago is far from over.

"There plenty of work to still do," Dye said.

Conservators believe the efforts of x-raying the remaining concretions and carefully examining each for signs of artifacts could take years.

It's not known if they'll discover more buttons or any other similar sized objects dating back to the 1700s.

As for their most recent discovery, its next stop is an extensive conservation process that will include desalination and coating it with a corrosion inhibitor.

The museum plans to have the historical button on display at its St. Augustine, Florida location by May.


So, if you find yourself in St Augustine Florida in May or after, go see the museum there. It's very nice and not overwhleming!

Until next time, 

                                         Fair Winds,

                                               Old Salt