A dugout canoe reportedly washed ashore during Hurricane Irma on the north side of Cocoa, Florida. A local resident reports that he was riding his bicycle after the storm and spotted the canoe by the shore. Familiar with state laws, he suspected the canoe came from Sovereign Submerged Lands and reported it to the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources, Department of State.
The canoe was evaluated by a professional archeologist based in Canaveral on Thursday, September 14. The canoe is approximately 15 feet long and weighs hundreds of pounds. It is waterlogged and has a very small number of barnacles on it. The construction is atypical, with not only a squared off form commonly seen in the historic period, but compartments and what appears to be a seat.
Initial assessments suggest the canoe is over fifty years old, which makes it historic in age, but the approximate age of the canoe is not yet confirmed. The department is having the canoe carbon-dated and we should receive results within a few weeks. Overall, its appearance and the presence of a cut nail suggests it is not a precontact canoe. In other words, it is maximum several hundred years old and minimum probably several decades old.
Florida has the highest concentration of archaeological dugouts in the world with more than 400 from the state. Wooden artifacts like canoes are only preserved in constantly wet environments or constantly dry environments. Because Florida is so wet, it has an environment conducive to preservation of wood. There are several uncommon but not unique things about this particular canoe:
1) its overall shape, construction and paint,
2) the nature of the find, and
3) the location of the find adjacent to the Indian River and the probable association with saltwater.
If it is determined to be historic, the canoe will be stabilized, preserved and hopefully it will ultimately be displayed locally for the public to enjoy and learn from.
The canoe is currently being kept wet and is in a safe place. The Division of Historical Resources is working with local museums to provide a short-term and long term plan for its conservation, preservation, and ultimate public display in Cocoa.