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All that's left of a Florida shipwreck more than a century ago is an anchor


In Florida's Biscayne National Park, marine archaeologists have found the remains of a shipwreck from more than a century ago in which dozens of people died. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, all that remains is the ship's anchor.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: In 1906, a steamship, the St. Lucie, was carrying workers who were helping build the Florida East Coast Railway when a hurricane struck. Maritime archaeologist Josh Marano says the captain tucked the ship behind an island and dropped several anchors.

JOSH MARANO: They attempted to ride out the storm, but the conditions worsened, so they ended up swinging on their anchor and just took enough damage to the point where they eventually capsized - flipped - or sank.

ALLEN: Survivors swam to a nearby island, which was nearly inundated by the storm surge. Twenty-six people died. It was one of the deadliest shipwrecks in Florida in the modern era. Marano says he was taking interns on a tour of some of the park's more than 80 known shipwrecks over the summer when the behavior of a turtle drew his attention. This was in a part of Biscayne Bay that had never been surveyed. When he investigated, he found the turtle had swum to the bottom and was sitting under an iron anchor 6 feet long near the site where the St. Lucie went down.

MARANO: There is chain attached to it that literally points in the direction of where the St. Lucie eventually sank.

ALLEN: After doing research, Marano was able to confirm that it came from the St. Lucie. After it sank, Marano says, the hull of the steamship was later raised, refitted and put back into service.

MARANO: So there's actually very little left at the wrecking site, and this is really the first substantial discovery associated with that wreck.

ALLEN: There are no plans at this point to raise the anchor. Instead, it will remain in place, be documented and added to the park's history trail available to boaters and divers. Marano says, so far, only a fraction of the hundreds of ships known to have sunk in Biscayne Bay have been found. He and others continue to look for wrecks and research their history. On the southern edge of the maritime park, archaeologists have been looking for the remains of another historic and deadly wreck. In 1827, a Spanish ship carrying enslaved people was chased by a British patrol and grounded on a reef, killing 41 people. So far, archaeologists have found clues but continue to search for the site of the wreck.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMIINA'S "LEATHER AND LACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.