And All the Men Knew the Colors of the Sea... : Historical and Archaeological Investigation of the SS Commodore's Remains Ponce Inlet Florida

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kimberly Lane Eslinger (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
Web Site:
Timothy J. Runyan

Abstract: This study focuses on a single question: Are the wreck site remains held under joint title by the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Association and Norman Serbousek those of the SS Commodore sunk on January 1 1897? The answer to this question lies in the documentation survey and historical study of a shipwreck lying twelve miles off Daytona Beach Florida in seventy feet of seawater. The remains at the site represent a significant late nineteenth century wooden-hulled steam vessel located in a dynamic marine environment off Ponce Inlet Florida. The research presented here stems from the hypothesis that the vessel's identity can be determined by an examination of the historical and archaeological records. Discovered in 1985 by Norman (Don) Serbousek the vessel remains are primarily sitting on a sand and shell hash bottom. The engine shaft propeller donkey boiler small anchor and windlass are the dominant site features. Buried under a thin layer of sediment are at least two cases of bullets large pieces of boilerplate and some hull structure. Serbousek and the Anchor Chasers Dive Club recovered over 180 artifacts in the 1980s and early 1990s. The collection contains rifles bullets coal ceramics and steam machinery. It is housed at Ponce Inlet Lighthouse where it awaits conservation. Research was facilitated by the existence of extensive archival materials a relatively "untouched" archaeological wreck site and the ability to examine previously recovered artifacts. Each of the sources above were examined to test Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Association's (PILHA) and Serbousek's assertions that the wreckage is that of the SS Commodore. Underwater investigations of the site were made using standard archaeological practices. The site was mapped to scale and a video documentary record made of the site. All previously recovered artifacts were examined identified drawn photographed tagged and assessed for future conservation. Documents from a variety of sources were studied and used in testing the site's identity. The incorporation of data from all three sources the site the artifacts and the documents lead the author to conclude that the wreck lying twelve miles from Daytona Beach Florida represents the remains of SS Commodore.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Commodore (Steamship)
Shipwrecks--Florida--History--19th century
Illegal arms transfers--Cuba
Cuba--History--Revolution, 1895-1898
Underwater archaeology--Florida

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