Ship­wreck in Florida: The stuff of his­tory?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - MI­AMI: His­tor­i­cal in­ter­est

Treasure hunters have ap­par­ently found the 500year-old re­mains of a naval ex­pe­di­tion led by a col­o­nizer who could have changed Florida’s his­tory, mak­ing it French­s­peak­ing at least for a while.

The big ques­tion is if the ship­wreck is that of “La Tri­nite,” the 32-gun flag­ship of a fleet led by Jean Ribault, a French nav­i­ga­tor who tried to es­tab­lish a Protes­tant colony in the south­east US un­der or­ders from King Charles IX.

They prob­a­bly are, say au­thor­i­ties in Florida, the French gov­ern­ment and in­de­pen­dent arche­ol­o­gists. And if they in fact are, this is an un­par­al­leled find, said John de Bry, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for His­tor­i­cal Arche­ol­ogy, a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. “If it turns out to be ‘La Tri­nite,’ it is the most im­por­tant, his­tor­i­cally and ar­chae­o­log­i­cally, the most im­por­tant ship­wreck ever found in North Amer­ica,” he told AFP.

All in­di­ca­tions are that the ship­wreck found is the real thing. The arte­facts found at the site off Cape Canaveral in­clude three bronze can­nons with mark­ings from the reign of King Henri II, who ruled right be­fore Charles IX; and a stone mon­u­ment with the French coat of arms that was to be used to claim the new ter­ri­tory. The re­mains are “con­sis­tent with ma­te­rial as­so­ci­ated with the lost French Fleet of 1565,” said Mered­ith Beatrice, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Florida Depart­ment of State. In 1565, Ribault set sail from Fort Caro­line, to­day Jack­sonville, to at­tack his arch-en­emy, the Spa­niard Pedro Me­nen­dez de Aviles, who had been sent to Florida by King Philip of Spain to thwart French plans to set up a colony.

But Ribault got caught in a hur­ri­cane, which de­stroyed “La Tri­nite” and three other galleons and ended French dreams of claim­ing Florida. Ribault and hundreds of other French Huguenots were mas­sa­cred by Me­nen­dez de Aviles.

“If the French had not been driven south and ships sunk by the hur­ri­cane, we would have a to­tally dif­fer­ent story,” said de Bry. “Florida could have been speak­ing French for a num­ber of years.” In modern day Florida, arche­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans have been look­ing for this ship­wreck for years. Two years ago, an ex­pe­di­tion from the state-run St. Au­gus­tine Light­house Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mar­itime Pro­gram gave it a shot but found noth­ing. Ma­rine arche­ol­o­gist Chuck Meide, who led that try, said “this is one of the most im­por­tant ship­wreck dis­cov­er­ies we have had in Florida.” The find was fi­nally made in May of this year by a treasure hunt­ing firm called Global Ma­rine Ex­plo­ration. Pre­cisely where has not been dis­closed.

“It is not ad­vis­able,” said French con­sul gen­eral Cle­ment Le­clerc. “This is po­ten­tially a ma­jor dis­cov­ery and we think it de­serves a sci­en­tific and rig­or­ous anal­y­sis and ex­ploita­tion, be­cause we think it should be later pre­sented to the gen­eral pub­lic given its his­tor­i­cal in­ter­est,” he told AFP.—AFP

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