When France Tried To Colonize Florida

By the time Spain established St. Augustine in 1565, France already had a toehold in Florida. The French had grand plans for the region, but they quickly ended in failure.

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This reconstruction of Fort Caroline is found at Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve in Jacksonville. Based on the le Moyne de Morgues/de Bry illustration, it’s not considered to be historically accurate. Credit Timucuan Preserve, National Park Service.
This reconstruction of Fort Caroline is found at Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve in Jacksonville. Based on the le Moyne de Morgues/de Bry illustration, it’s not considered to be historically accurate. Credit Timucuan Preserve, National Park Service.

Fall 2015:

By Wayne Curtis

On August 12, 2014, two divers rolled into the water from the research vessel Roper, anchored just off the coast of Florida’s Cape Canaveral. They were pretty sure they’d find something beneath the sand that day. Earlier that summer, the ship had towed a side-scan sonar and a magnetometer over the seabed, and all of the sudden the computers had come alive and registered a major magnetic signature, indicating that some large object containing iron or steel was beneath them.

“It was a pretty decent hit, and had a sizable magnetic anomaly,” says Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, the research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, who was leading the crew on board the boat that day. “When we saw our first anomaly in the survey area, everybody was huddled around the computers and we were all excited.”

Some days later, divers swam down about 25 feet to the seabed. Using a 10-foot hydraulic probe, they repeatedly bore into the sand using a narrow, high-pressure stream of water. After a little over two-dozen probes, they got a “hard return”—meaning the probe detected something immovable not far beneath the surface.

Had they at last found La Trinité, the French ship that Meide has called “the holy grail of maritime archaeology?” When it departed Dieppe, on France’s Upper Normandy coast just weeks before it sank in 1565, La Trinité’s manifest showed that it was laden with nearly 1,000 cannon balls, 300 iron pikes, 100 armored corsets, along with anvils, iron bowls, hooks, and many other iron objects—all which could explain the strong magnetic signature. Contemporary accounts also record that the ship didn’t have time to unload on Florida’s coast, as a hostile Spanish fleet had arrived in its wake, forcing it and three other French ships to hastily raise their anchors and flee.

Summary. Read More  in our Fall 2015 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 19 No. 3

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