Wednesday, December 28, 2016

12/28/16 Report - Shiver Me Timbers. Wood Shipwreck Remains.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Worm-Riddled Shipwreck Wood From a Treasure Coast Beach.
I mentioned the other day that a lot of the visible wreckage of the treasure wrecks is not longer there. To a large extent it has deteriorated, been removed, or scattered about.  Once in a while, though, there is still some timber that gets uncovered and washes up on the beach.  That happens most after rough weather that removes protective layers.  It doesn't seem to happen very often anymore.

Of course things deteriorate and disappear, especially in rough salt water environments.  One thing that was always a problem for wood ships is the Toredo worms.  Various things were used over the years in the hope of preventing that type of damage, such as covering the hull with copper or lead or various materials or substances.

Prior to around 1800 hulls were made almost entirely of white oak, possibly with sacrificial planking on the outside of the hull. The sacrificial planking was used on ships that traveled in warm ocean waters, where wooden hulls are susceptible to damage by burrowing marine organisms such as teredo worms. Sacrificial planking was applied to hulls to decrease the risk of damage. This half-inch thick layer of wood, such as pine, was replaced regularly when infested with marine borers. By the late eighteenth century copper sheathing replaced sacrificial planking as the preferred method of hull protection.

As far back as the reign of Edward the III, in 1336, several compositions containing pitch, tar, sulphur and oil were employed for coating the hulls of ships to prevent the attack of sea worms and the adherence of barnacles and sea weeds. It was also a common practice to use a thin planking, secured by nails, over the main planking, in those olden times. In 1625, a patent was granted to one William Beale, in England, for a composition not described, but the object of which was to render the hull and rigging incombustible.  

(That excerpt is from

There are places on the Treasure Coast where you can still find pieces of lead and copper sheathing.  I think the place that seems to produce the most copper sheathing is a later wreck and probably not a treasure wreck.

I've read that pieces of hull and other wood structures were observed on some of the 1715 wrecks into the mid-20th century.  I don't know how much wood the salvage crews see on the wrecks anymore.  I do know that it wasn't long ago that I found pieces of worm-riddled timbers on the beach.  Large sections were found over the years in the dunes at various locations.  It can be difficult to tell the age or source of small isolated wood finds like that.

At the top of this post you can see a close up of one piece that I found one time.

Often there will be the remains of iron or other types of metal such as spikes or rods.  This piece shown above has a piece of what appears to be a spike and a hole or two where there were once pieces of metal.

I've posted some beach found shipwreck wood in this blog in the past.   I suspect that there has to be a relatively unusual combination of weather conditions to uncover centuries old wood and wash it up onto the beach these days. A few years ago quite a few pieces washed up.  Of course it is also possible that wood covered by the dunes was washed out, but I don't think that was the case the last time I saw it happen, judging from the other things that were washing up onto the beach and where it happened.


KEY WEST, Fla., Oct. 11— After 364 years under water, 40 timbers from the sunken 17th-century Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, each weighing 1,600 pounds, have been raised from a depth of 54 feet in the Gulf of Mexico...

The timbers are ''the largest single collection of remains from a Spanish galleon,'' according to Dr. John Dorwin, senior archeologist for the treasure hunters who found the ships. ''And in terms of construction of such a galleon, very little is known.'' He predicts the timbers will help to break new ground in ship architecture.

Here are links to the article and a YouTube video about that.

And here is an article that claims that as the result of global warming teredo worms are spreading farther north and damaging shipwrecks that in the past were safe from the pest.


If you're curious about the expression "shiver me timbers," here is a link.


We're having unusually warm weather for the season.  And the beaches aren't doing much.

Happy hunting,