Wednesday, June 17, 2015

6/17/15 Report - Can A Storm Uncover As Much Treasure As A Hurricane? Question Answered.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Wabasso After Hurricane Francis, Sept. 2004.
Photo submitted by Ron J.

Yesterday Ron J. sent me an email along with above photo and posed an interesting question.  Here is what Ron said in his email.

Please see attached :  Photo of Wabasso beach just after they opened the bridge and before they closed the beach access right after Hurricane Frances, September 2004.

It was all I could do to take a few photos as we where dealing with property damage and shock of the eye of the storm going right over us.

I don't know what was found after that storm but you can see from that photo how much sand has been put back on to that beach. Note the Disney Hotel beach ramp in the background.

I really picked up on beach detecting with my father after all the finds from the 1984 Thanksgiving noreaster storm...

I have an Idea for a Poll.  Make a poll asking for finds made after known storms and compare that info to known erosion caused by these known storms...  This might answer the question:  Do objects really need a Major Hurricane  to be exposed or is a minor noreaster storm more effective?

That is a great question Ron.  I often said that it doesn't take a hurricane, but I haven't backed it up with data.  Your question made me really think about it, and although I don't think I can conduct a poll that would produce data that would answer that question, I did some research and found some data that I find very convincing.

That data is found in a NOAA publication with the title The Florida East Coast Thanksgiving Holiday Storm of 1984 by Raymond Biedinger, Clifford Brock, Federico Gonzales, and Burt Sylvern.

Here is the link.

As you probably know, the Thanksgiving 1984 storm is legendary in treasure lore.  Notice that it was a storm and not a hurricane.  

I'll present some of the NOAA report below and point out by bolding and underlining some of the statements that I think are most note worthy.  Here goes.

...The meteorological conditions just described produced one of the most damaging storms to affect the eastern coastal sections of Florida during the past several decades. Much of the damage from Fernandina Beach southward to North Miami Beach, nearly 400 miles, was caused by the easterly winds of gale force with gusts as high as 60 miles an hour blowing for nearly four days. This action of the wind over the ocean produced shoreward moving swells of around 20 feet which pounded the Florida east coast and produced the most severe beach erosion in recent years in many areas. An example of the destruction was the reduction of the newly completed l100 foot pier at St. Augustine to 300 feet. Sand dunes were obliterated leaving barrier islands void of any natural protection against the next onslaught of a coastal storm in the future. To add to the destructiveness, the highest monthly astronomical tide period coincided with the highest period of storm tides which occurred on the morning of Thursday and Friday, the 22nd and 23rd. All of this produced tides 4 to 6 feet above mean yea level (MSL} at times of high tide. In some places, this was the highest tide in the last 30 years. Alt Mayport, Florida, just north of Jacksonville, the tide of 5.2 feet above MSL was the third highest tide of record. Much of state road A1A, the famous coastal highway, was closed in Indian River County between Vero Beach and Sebastian Inlet because of high water. In this area several beach front buildings collapsed, and 600 to 1,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes. In Palm Beach County, five blocks of A1A were seriously damaged by the high tides and heavy surf. Bridges were closed because of flooded approaches which caused some barrier islands including the large Hutchinson Island to become isolated for periods of time around the time of high tide. In the storm's aftermath, severe coastal beach erosion stretched from Jacksonville to Palm Beach. ...

 At the West Palm Beach weather office, a new station rainfall record was set on Thanksgiving Day for the greatest amount in a calendar day, 7.41 inches....

Another factor was that these strong onshore winds continued for many days. Winds of near gale force (about 40 miles an hour) began blowing along the north Florida coast the evening of the 20th. They did not subside until late on the 24th. Therefore, much of Florida experienced strong onshore winds for about 4 whole days. These winds were frequently between 30 and 40 miles an hour. The direction of the winds was from the north northeast which is probably the best angle of incidence for beach erosion along the coast from Fernandina Beach to Palm Beach. The coastline south of Palm Beach was spared from most of the adverse effects of the storm because the wind was actually blowing offshore throughout much of the storm. However, this northwest wind caused significant damage to the coastlines of the western Bahama Islands Friday and Saturday. This was all due to the position of the storm center remaining over Grand Bahama Island from early Thursday morning through early Saturday...

As noted earlier, the time of the month that the storm occurred was coincident with the highest astronomical tides of the month and nearly the highest spring tide of the year. Tide tables indicated that the highest predicted tides for the month of November fell on the mornings of the 22nd and the 23rd, exactly during the time of the highest storm tide. Reports from the storm survey teams of the Florida Department of Natural Resources indicate that the storm tide was over 6 feet above low mean water. Tide gauge readings at Mayport were 7.5 feet above mean low water or 5.2 feet above mean sea level. The one factor of the storm episode which magnified the entire situation was the nearly stationary nature of the storm for 3 days. This lack of movement produced the prolonged onshore winds which resulted in at least 4 days of heavy surf pounding the shore. Portions of the coastline experienced 9 high tides during this period, with each succeeding high tide higher than the previous one, thus making the erosion of sand greater with each tide. These are the reasons for the extensive damage that resulted from this particular storm....

I must have said hundred times that the angle of the waves is important and that North/Northeast waves are the most effective for creating erosion.  I learned that from personal observation.   As far as I can recall this is the first time I've seen that statement made in such an authoritative source.  

I know a lot was found after the hurricanes of 2004, but there were also a lot of finds after the Thanksgiving Storm.

An old issue of Lost Treasure Magazine (I hope to find it again ) once reported that during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1984 over 2,000 silver coins and at least 16 gold coins were recovered by metal detectorists.  It was reported that "The coins lay on the hard coquina bottom under a layer of sand and silt and had been there since the day the Regla, capitana of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet came ashore."  

Take into account that in 1984 most communication was via word of mouth or print.  Those that didn't live on the Treasure Coast did not get word as soon and there was not so much sharing and discussion of finds.  1984 was different from 2004 in a variety of ways that makes it difficult to compare the two time periods as far as finds.  I discussed that in a recent post.

I personally know of some of the finds made during the 1984 storm, and know that one of the gold coins was a Royal.

I personally know of a lot of coins found after the 2004 hurricanes.  One person found twenty something half reales at Bon Steele, for example.  I personally know of other finds after the hurricanes of 2004, including both gold and silver.  The erosion was very far back on some of the beaches.

At this point and this many years after both 1984 and 2004 I have no hope of getting anything like precise data that would fairly compare 1984 and 2004.  I do think though, after reading the NOAA report about the 1984 storm, we can confidently say that it does not require a hurricane to cause massive erosion sufficient to make available many old shipwreck items.

In summary, I haven't provided definitive data that proves that a minor storm is more effective than a hurricane, but I think I can confidently say that a storm (producing gusts of up to 60 mph) can be just as effective in producing finds as a hurricane.

I remember mentioning on multiple occasions over the years about the effectiveness of a storm that sits offshore and churns for a while.  In the case of the 1984 storm, the NOAA report said, ... much of Florida experienced strong onshore winds for about 4 whole days.  It was stationary for about four days.  It was also accompanied by a period of well-timed high tides.

Although the Thanksgiving Storm of 1984 was an exceptional storm, and maybe few other storms will have all of the factors in line to create the same level of effects, the hurricanes of 2004 were also exceptional.  For one thing there were three different hurricanes in a short period of time.

Other major hurricanes, Hurricane Andrew as one example, failed to produce the same level of coastal erosion even though it produced very high water and a lot of damage.

You might recall that Hurricane Andrew was a quick hitting storm that passed over South Florida very quickly.

Well, I think that is all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.  That was a great question Ron.  I'm glad I looked into it.


I'd like to receive any photos you might be able to find showing the Treasure Coast beaches immediately after the Thanksgiving 1984 storm.  Please send them if you find any.

I don't want to see a hurricane because of all the damage and destruction. Don't want to be a downer, but going metal detecting when there is so much damage and so many people needing help just doesn't feel right to me.  It isn't all about me anymore.  In fact, none of it is.


On the Treasure Coast we still have a one foot surf predicted into next week.  No change there.

Happy hunting,