Mysteries in the deep
Archaeologists suggest the cannons and monument are linked to one of the earliest European colonies in the Americas, the French Huguenot settlement at Fort Caroline, which was founded in 1564 on a site near the modern-day city of Jacksonville.
The researchers think that three of the cannons and the marble monument were seized when the Spanish attacked Fort Caroline in 1565, and were being taken to Havana, in Cuba, on Spanish ships when they were sunk by a storm. [Read full story about the colonial-age shipwrecks]
It matches the description of a monument carried to Florida in 1562 by the French navigator and colonialist Jean Ribault.
When Ribault’s lieutenant René Laudonnière returned in 1564 to build Fort Caroline, he was greeted at the site by the chief of the Timucua Indians, who honored the French monument with garlands and offerings of food.
Attack at Fort Caroline
This engraving shows a French attack on Spanish forces at Fort Caroline in 1568, in reprisal for the 1565 massacre. The fort was rebuilt by the Spanish after the French attack, but it was eventually abandoned.
But historical records show that the French ships used by Ribault’s expedition were all smaller than 150 tons displacement — another indication that the newly discovered wrecks are likely Spanish ships.
The 19 iron cannons found at the site appear to be ship's guns of the early colonial period, either of French or English manufacture. But markings on the heavy bronze cannons indicate they were made in France in the 16th century.
The U.S. Air Force base at Cape Canaveral began testing rockets under the Bumper program, which initially used V2 rocket technology developed by Germany during World War II. On July 20, 1950, a modified V2 rocket named "Bumper 8" was the first rocket launched from Cape Canaveral.
Robert Pritchett, the company's CEO, said the researchers are now waiting for approval from Florida authorities to raise the artifacts for preservation and further study. Until then, the cannons and the marble monument remain in place, amid the shipwrecks and rocket rockets in the waters near Cape Canaveral.