One of the anchors resting on one of the cannon & one of the anchors now on display at the entrance to the Jupiter Lighthouse (possibly the one pictured at top) .
Big John, myself & Allan Phillips with a piece of the
wreck. Note the lighthouse behind where we were.
Thoughts on the "Jupiter Wreck"
by Steve Singer
Where is the rest of the Jupiter Wreck, believed to be the San Miguel el Archangel lost in 1659? In May of 1999, some members of the Marine Archaeological Council (MAC) made a second visit to Bob & Bea Snyder’s beautiful “Old Florida” home located in the Jupiter Inlet Colony, across the canal from the Jupiter Lighthouse and not far off the Loxahatchee River. Members present were Big John McLaughlin (well-known Florida diver, cinematographer, stunt man & one of the first deep tech divers), Allan Phillips, Mark Foster, Gerry Baker, and myself. Also visiting the Snyder’s was well-known cave diver Wes Skiles, who was also a free-lance photographer for National Geographic Magazine.
Going through some old MAC newsletters, I found the report that Mark Foster wrote about our day at the site. We had done some detecting and dredging and found what was believed to be some old shipwreck material (wood & iron fastenings). MAC made another visit to the property later on that year and found more shipwreck related material, though equipment failure ended that operation all too soon. Mark wrote that a piece of wood recovered by Mr. Snyder in the area had been analyzed and found to be a species of Lysiloma, used in shipbuilding , furniture mfg., etc, though can’t say for sure it was part of the wreckage we uncovered.
Some have said this was the remains of an old barge, but no conclusions could be made as much more work on the site would be needed to try and identify the remains. I contacted the local museum, but they had no information of anything being wrecked or abandoned in that area. Is it possible a piece of the “Jupiter Wreck” drifted into the existing inlet of that time and settled there? There was allot of “muck” covering the site and much more was believed to remain deeper down. The whole area has changed considerably since we were there 20 years ago, with most all the “Old Florida” waterfront homes having been torn down and replaced with the modern mansions seen now. What exactly the wreckage we found all those years ago belonged to may likely never be known, but I don’t dismiss that it could be part of the “Jupiter Wreck.”
Lifeguard Peter Leo first found a cannon uncovered in 1987 about 200 yards right off the public beach just south of the jetty, and soon coins, more cannon, an anchor, and other artifacts were being found by just hand fanning in the immediate area. This wreck was known about years before, and was mentioned in Bessie DuBois’ book Shipwrecks in the Vicinity of Jupiter Inlet published in 1975, twelve years before Peter discovered his cannon. Peter soon partnered with local marina owner Dominic Addario, and a salvage permit was then applied for and eventually granted to excavate the wreck. Before long, thousands of coins and other treasures were being found from the beach to around a mile offshore. In 1995, a dredge pumping sand onto the beach, ran through part of the wreck much further offshore from where Peter Leo originally found cannons, and coins and other artifacts from the ship were soon being recovered by beachcombers. Word spread, and the salvagers soon made a note where the dredge had been working. That area was eventually investigated and more coins and artifacts were recovered. Sand being dredged from the inlet was also being dumped on top of the wreck site, and excavation soon required much larger salvage vessels with prop wash deflectors to be able to move the 15-25’ of sand now covering the site, making work much more difficult and expensive.
I don’t believe a “main ballast pile” has ever been located, but some ballast stones had been found scattered in the area of recovery which runs from the public beach just on south side of the inlet to around a mile offshore. It should be noted that the ballast was not the typical round river rock type found on the 1715 and 1733 Spanish fleet wrecks, but was irregularly shaped. So where is the rest of the wreck - inside the inlet, north of the inlet, further south of the inlet, under the beach, in deeper water, or a combination of these? I found a very large pottery shard I believe is from the wreck along with smaller shards off Carlin Park many years ago when the reef just offshore, which is usually buried under sand, had been exposed. That’s about as far south that any artifacts from the wreck were found that I’ve heard about. I believe more of the wreck lies north of the inlet. I remember no excavation was allowed north of the inlet back when I dove on the Jupiter Wreck in the 90’s, and that may still be the case. I was working the 1715 fleet wrecks, but weather one year was awful, and I was lucky to be able to come down on the bad days and dive with the Ella Warley III crew, who were sub-contractors on the Jupiter wreck. They found a couple thousand coins that year, though they had to move 15-20+ feet of sand to be able to recover them. Just north of the inlet I found a silver spoon I believe is from the wreck on the beach off Jupiter Inlet Colony during a rare occurrence when that section of beach was washed out down to bedrock after a storm. As further salvage on the wreck appears to be at an impasse due to a number of circumstances, the mystery of where the rest of this shipwreck and her treasure’s final resting place may never be solved.
For video of treasure being recovered on the Jupiter Wreck, check the "video" tab.
All photos by Steve Singer.