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Florida archaeologists believe mysterious beach debris is 1800s shipwreck

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A large and mysterious wooden object, partially unearthed by hurricane erosion on a Florida beach, appears to be a shipwreck from the 1800s, according to archaeologists who inspected the site.

"This is definitely a ship," Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, said after he and 10 Florida archaeologists removed sand from the 80-foot-long structure in Daytona Beach Shores.

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"And that's just because of the construction of it," he said. "You can see these timbers sticking up, those are massive, and the way they're arranged, that's how you build a ship."

The wooden structure was discovered last month following heavy erosion from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The determination came Tuesday.

"This erosion is unprecedented at this point. We haven't seen this kind of erosion in a very long time," Volusia Beach Safety Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs told WKMG-TV on Nov. 30. "I've been on the beach probably 25 years and that's the first time I've seen it exposed."

At the time the wood debris was discovered, residents and local officials believed the structure was part of an old boat or an old dock.

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"Imagine as many Amazon trucks that you see on the roads today, this was the equivalent in the 1800s," Christopher McCarron, archaeology administrative director and the vessel captain of the St. Augustine maritime program, told Fox 35 in Orlando.

On Tuesday, the team of Florida archaeologists told WESH-TV they believe the ship is fairly intact.

"It's a wooden-hulled shipwreck. It was held together with wooden pegs and also with iron fasteners," Meide said, while adding he believes it was a merchant or cargo ship.

"If it was coming from the Caribbean it could have been fruit. It could have been lumber. If it was coming from the Gulf of Mexico, it could have been manufactured goods," Meide said.

Archaeologists said there are no plans to dig the ship up since it likely would not survive. Instead, they will photograph, measure and study the structure until the tide eventually covers it with sand again.

"It's like a time capsule, basically," said Christopher McCarron, an archaeologist for LAMP. "It's a rush to get it done and the rush of getting it done, piecing together the sort of puzzle, because that's what it is, it's a puzzle for us to figure out."

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"We want to understand the cultural, historical parameters of it, how old it is, what country does it come from, what was its purpose. Those are basic questions when it comes to a shipwreck," Meide said.

"The clock is ticking on a site like this. We'll do the best we can, but there's only so much we can get."

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