Deadman's Island Shipwreck


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Remains of a naval railroad which served as part of ships' cargo unloading area.

The 1989 excavations of Deadman's Shipwreck took place just off of Deadman's Island (Old Navy Cove) which is owned by the city of Gulf Breeze, Florida. The shipwreck excavation project was sponsored jointly by the city of Gulf Breeze, the University of West Florida, and the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research. There were three purposes for this project: public education, information recovery, and field and laboratory training of college students. The Deadman's Island shipwreck served as University of Florida's first field school in underwater archaeology.

The waters around Gulf Breeze contain scores of shipwrecks from the earliest colonial days of the 17th century through World War I. The excavation of Deadman's Shipwreck, an abandoned British sloop from the British period in Western Florida (1763-1781), provided valuable scientific information and served to bring the unique underwater resources into the mainstream of public attention.

In 1994, the remains of three barrel wells on the present shore of Deadman's Island appeared after the eroding effects of a storm. Originally the barrel wells were set some distance from the water, but the present-day shoreline is much closer inland due to erosion. UWF graduate students in the Historical Archaeology program and members of the Pensacola shipwreck survey excavated the barrel wells. Because the protruding well staves were at the water's edge, artifact recovery was accomplished with an induction dredge. If the barrel wells had not been excavated promptly upon discovery, the data and artifacts would have been lost to the tide. Among the objects recovered from these wells dating from the mid-to-late 1800s were shoes, wine bottles, an aqua colored glass ink well, broken bits of glass and ceramics, and many nails and spikes.

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