Wednesday, September 21, 2016

9/21/16 Report - Survivor Camps. Ribault. An 1813 Wreck Camp. Studying Survivor Camps.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Different beaches are different.  There are narrow beaches with a high cliff at the back, and there are wider beaches with only low dunes at the back.

The area from Turtle Trail to Wabasso has a narrow beach with a good cliff behind.  When the water gets high enough to erode the back dunes on a beach like that, coins and things will slide down the eroded cliff onto the beach.

John Brooks beach is another kind of beach.  It is wide, flat and has no cliff face on the back dunes.  When the water gets high enough to get to the dunes on a beach like this, which doesn't happen too often, the water generally just flows back and around the dunes and then down into the low spots.  By the time it gets to the dunes there isn't much water left.  As a result, beaches like John Brooks seldom have things washed out of the dunes and onto the beach.  It really takes a lot for erosion to reach back to the dunes.

Beaches like John Brooks seldom produce large denomination cobs.  More often you get small cobs, mostly 1/2 reales, 1 reales or 2 reales.  Beach shape is not the only factor though.

There were survivor camps in the dunes near the wrecks.  A survivor camp is not the same as a salvage camp, although they will often be found in the same locations and on top of each other. Salvage camps obviously come after survivor camps.

Salvage camps and survivor camps can sometimes be distinguished from each other by the types of artifacts, and when both occur at the same location, they might be distinguished by the distribution pattern.

Here is a paragraph from from an interesting NOAA article about the discovery and excavation of one survivor camp in the Cape Canaveral area.

During the winter of 1970-1971, a group of Central Florida relic hunters discovered an archaeological site on the western or inland shore of the outer barrier island in what is now Canaveral National Seashore. Over the next several months, the group explored the site and the surrounding area, locating two more related sites, all within 1.3 kilometers of each other.

Ship's spikes, jewelry and numerous 16th century Spanish and French coins were found by detectorists.

Douglas Armstrong, a member of the group that originally found the site, determined that the site might well be a survivor camp from the Ribault fleet.

(I've mentioned Douglas before in this blog. He also authored the book The Winter Beach Salvage Camp.)

You'll undoubtedly want to take a look at this NOAA web site.  Here is the link.

They provide a map and pictures of artifacts and coins as well as more detail.


Here are a couple paragraphs from another article that looks at a survivor camp.

...The archaeological team--which includes members from Russia, the U.S. and Canada--believes articles they found over the past two years represent the everyday tools used by 26 shipwrecked members of the Neva's crew. Those crew members survived for almost a month in the winter of 1813 by foraging and gathering materials that washed ashore from the wreck.

In July, researchers discovered at the campsite a series of hearths with early 19th century artifacts such as gun flints, musket balls, pieces of modified sheet copper, iron and copper spikes, a Russian axe, and a fishhook fashioned from copper. Well-preserved food middens--or refuse heaps--will allow reconstruction of the foraging strategies the sailors used to survive....

And here is that link.


Here is an abstract of an article that suggests a systematic approach to the study of shipwreck survivor camps.

Shipwreck survivor camps are a neglected terrestrial component of maritime archaeology, usually being investigated purely as an adjunct to work on the associated wreck site. Most studies have considered these sites as individual and unique, molded by the particulars of the historic events that created them. However, by considering the history, anthropology, and archaeology of a series of Australasian survivor incidents and sites, this paper highlights common elements and themes, which allow examination of these sites within a comparative framework. These include the development of authority structures, social organization, salvage and subsistence strategies, material culture, short- and long-term rescue strategies, and the possible infl uences of crisis-related stress upon the decisions made by individuals and groups. Survivor camp studies are linked into the wider concerns of maritime archaeology and anthropology by placing them within the context of wreck formation models.

Here is the link to entire article.

Since the beach is an area where items from the dunes and from the water mingle, it is good to know a little about those very different areas and the items that come from them.


Tropical depression Karl and tropical storm Lisa are still out there, but my guess is that neither will affect us.  Things could change though.

The surf is small today and expected to increase a couple of feet by the weekend.

Happy hunting,