The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve reported to Historic City News that they recently received an old ship rudder from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, which is now on display at the GTM’s Environmental Education Center.
This rudder, which was the primary steering mechanism for a large ship, is 12 feet long and weighs over several hundred pounds.
“In 2005, this piece of shipwreck was uncovered on a Vilano Beach shore, just three miles from the reserve,” said Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve.
Archaeologists suggest that it dates back to the late 18th or early 19th century. Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, suggested that the burn marks near the top of the rudder could indicate it was lost during a ship fire.
The GTM Research Reserve sent the rudder to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in 2006 to undergo a conservation procedure that installed a system of tubes used to funnel a wood adhesive into the rudder to hold it together.
The rudder has been returned to the GTM Research Reserve to make room for a new maritime research and education facility at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. Future reserve plans include building an interpretive display near the rudder featuring a description and historical information.
The Reserve is managed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Environmental Education Center is located at 505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 32082.