The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 10, 2013

Getting to the bottom of the Pickles Reef mystery


He also located two mast steps, which Anthony described as rectangular slots in which the masts were connected to the ship. “In the old days they put a coin in there to tell the date of the ship — and for good luck,” he said.

The mast steps also indicate the wreck is either a sailboat or schooner.

On the first dive last week, Anthony easily found the first mast step. But he could not find the second one until the second dive. It was partially hidden under coral.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group laid a baseline of measuring tape down the center of the site and used the trilateration method to measure several of the site’s metal features to later be placed to scale on a map.

They also tried to estimate the number of barrel-shaped cement features that were on the bottom. Archaeologist Dennis Knepper, vice president of the society, said he saw between 30 and 50.

“That does not seem like it is quite enough to be on a barge, unless a lot of it deteriorated,” he said. “The only ones we’re seeing are the barrels that remained intact long enough for the cement to harden before the wood deteriorated.”

Knepper usually works on land sites slated for development. In one freeway project near the Watergate Hotel in Washington, he found prehistoric sites and plowed fields from tobacco farms buried under 14 feet of fill. “It was intriguing, but they still built the ramp over it,” he said.

Part of the society’s mission is to enhance the public’s awareness and appreciation for historic shipwrecks. Anthony hopes this awareness will help encourage charter boat captains and divers and snorkelers to view these sites more as underwater museums than as treasures to be seized.

Anthony would like to see the Pickles Reef wreck site one day added to the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, which now includes nine wrecks with interesting tales to tell.

“It’s a cultural resource we want to protect,” Anthony said. “You can do that by capturing the imagination of the public by telling the story of how much terror and fight and struggle to survive there was for the people on that ship that smashed into the reef.”


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