Mysterious debris on Florida beach unearthed by Hurricane Nicole likely a shipwreck, archaeologists say

The debris was discovered a couple of weeks ago in Daytona Beach Shores after part of the beach was washed away during Hurricane Nicole.

DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla. – Archaeologists said Tuesday that debris that appeared on a beach in Florida after Hurricane Nicole last month is likely a shipwreck from the 19th Century.

According to FOX 35 Orlando, the debris was discovered a couple of weeks ago in Daytona Beach Shores after part of the beach washed away during Hurricane Nicole.

State archaeologists descended on the beach Tuesday to investigate the find, which they said was likely a more than 80-foot-long merchant ship from the mid to late 1800s.

"Sometimes you can make the connection between what was being transported and what was being built," said Christopher McCarron, a maritime archaeologist from St. Augustine, Florida.

McCarron said it is too early to answer those questions right now.

"That’s where those diagnostic artifacts identifiers come in handy, to help us narrow down potential areas," McCarron told FOX 35 Orlando. "Unfortunate for this particular wreck, we might not have that information still left."


Do not disturb

Mark Ard, director of external affairs for the Florida Department of State, said the department's Division of Historical Resources and Bureau of Archeological Research have been in contact with authorities in Daytona Beach Shores about the discovery. State archaeologists are working with other archeologists to document the site, he told FOX 35 Orlando in an email.

Ard said that when the state learns of a potential discovery, it works to ensure the area around the discovery is protected, noting that the removal of artifacts from an archaeological site without authorization is a third-degree felony.

Officials said where the artifacts are placed in relation to other artifacts and the environmental features of a site could provide clues to their function and method of manufacturing or loss. That information will allow archaeologists to learn not only more about the artifacts but also about past human behavior.

When artifacts are moved, disrupted or destroyed, that context is "destroyed and cannot be recreated," Ard said.


Other post-Nicole discoveries

The debris in Daytona Beach Shores is just one of a few discoveries that have been made in Florida after Hurricane Nicole. 

Human remains were unearthed by the ferocious storm on Hutchinson Island. Officials said they believe the remains may be from a Native American burial mound.

A shutterbug spotted a 1930s steamer trunk washed ashore near St. Augustine in the days after the hurricane hit. Officials said they didn't find anything of value in the trunk.

FOX Weather's Aaron Barker contributed to this report.