THE HALLANDALE BEACH CANNON WRECK
In 1960, members of the Reefcombers Dive Club, including the late retired Hollywood Fire Chief Jim Ward (and later member of the Marine Archaeological Council), found a wreck-site with cannon recently exposed just south of Hallandale Beach Blvd. a few hundred feet off the beach. They recovered six of the cannons along with one or more swivel guns, an anchor, and a number of other artifacts. Soon though, the area was again buried under sand and has been ever since, especially since beach-renourishment projects.
After a dispute with the finders, the cannon and anchor became property of the City of Hallandale, eventually went through a conservation process years later in 1982, and are now on display in front of City Hall, along with the anchor recovered from the site (see attached photos).
The cannon bore the “GR” (George Rex) crest or “royal cypher”, and were stamped with the “broad arrow,” which indicated these were from a British admiralty vessel (see attached photos), or possibly a previously captured British vessel. An inscription on one of the cannon read 7-1-1709, which archaeologist Mendel Peterson believed was the casting date, though never confirmed. Believe from the artifacts found that this vessel was lost during the reign of King George II. One artifact recovered was a lead seal from Barry Brothers of London, who produce Cutty Sark whiskey. Barry Brothers was contacted and replied that this seal was discontinued about 1740. The War of Jenkins Ear (1739-1748), also fits the time frame, but doubt the vessel was lost due to any type of enemy action, and more likely due to a storm.
Having recently measured the cannons on display, they appear to be 3-pounders. I’ve researched all the British naval/privateer ships of that period that I could find, and thought I found the most likely candidate as being the sloop HMS Wolf. Colledge and others say it wrecked on the Florida coast in 1741. It had (8) 3 pounder cannon, and (12) 1/2 pounder swivel guns. These seem to match with what had been recovered. According to a privy council document and other sources (see photo) it actually was "cast away on the Windward passage on the West Caicos", which is over 700 miles away from Florida, so that couldn’t be right? As the attached news article from 1771 indicates, many vessels were listed as wrecked in the “Gulf of Florida,” which as explained in my book More Shipwrecks of Florida, could mean a number of other areas other than Florida, and then mistakenly listed as “wrecked off Florida.”
The HMS Wolf though appears to be the only British naval vessel that fits this description that was lost during this period anywhere near the Caribbean/Florida areas. Having researched many shipwrecks, I’ve occasionally found that some vessels previously listed as “lost” were then later salvaged and repaired. Was the Wolf later repaired and then wrecked again on the Florida coast? Maybe its guns salvaged and placed on another vessel which wrecked here? It could have been salvaged by wreckers and not necessarily the British Navy, thus no records of this in any admiralty reports. Further research will be needed, but as most of the archives in England are now closed due to the 2020-21 pandemic, this will have to wait, and the true identity of this shipwreck remains to be seen.
I hope to add to this article in the near future with any new information. If anyone knows of any of the artifacts (or photos of) still out there recovered by the Reefcombers Club other than what’s on display at the City of Hallandale, would love to hear from you. The late Jim Ward had also mentioned that another wreck-site about ½ mile north of the cannon site, which lay right off the Diplomat Hotel (also buried now for years), had the same type ballast, timbers, and metal fittings, and he believed could be another section of the cannon wreck.
Some photos & information from book: Shipwrecks of Broward County, by James Dean, & Steven Danforth Singer. Other photos by: Steve Singer
Cannons & anchor on display. Unsure where "anchor chain" welded to anchor is from, but stud-link chain doesn't fit time period of anchor. Also note the "bent" shank, likely due to trying to keep vessel off-shore during a storm.
Cannon shortly after recovery and photo for scale (believe 3-pounders)
The "GR crest" & "broad arrow."
A 1771 report-an example of how early reports can be confusing as to where a vessel wrecked (Caicos Bank/Gulf of Florida).
Names of the salvors
This privy council document regarding the reinstatement of Capt. Draper (he was dismissed during a court martial for the loss of the Wolf), reports where the Wolf was lost. Document courtesy of web-site: https://threedecks.org/
Information plaque on display by the anchor
Photo of the area where wreck was found taken 7/23/2021. Shoreline is much different from the 1960s. Was all sand bottom out to where photo was taken from on top of a 20' flat reef. We dove the reef looking for any clues it may have first struck further out, but found nothing. Beach restoration has covered most all the inner patch reefs & unless a storm moves allot of sand, it may never be seen again.
Recent photo of one of the cannon on display. Very faint marking can still be observed.