2019 Shipwreck Conference – Speaker Bios and Abstracts

Honorary Chair
Dr. Eugene Lyon

Dr Gene LyonGene Lyon illuminated the Spanish colony of Santa Elena (1566-1587) in Beaufort County, SC as the first European capital on the North American continent. With historian Paul Hoffman and archaeologists Stan South and Chester DePratter, Dr. Lyon established the scholarly basis upon which the Santa Elena Foundation continues today.  A Florida native, Dr. Lyon served in the Korean War aboard the USS Hobson (DMS-26). He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, and he is an internationally recognized authority on Spanish Colonial “La Florida” (all lands from Maine to Texas) and the Spanish maritime system.  Lyon authored The Enterprise of FloridaThe Search for the Atocha, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Sourcebook. The University of South Carolina Press published Santa Elena: A Brief History of the Colony and the St. Augustine Historical Society published his book, Richer Than We Thought. He has written many monographs, conference papers, book chapters, and five National Geographic articles, two of them cover articles.  One of those featured previously unpublished data on Christopher Columbus’s caravel Niña.  Lyon’s work in Spain’s General Archive of the Indies resulted in the location and identification of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita shipwrecks in the lower Florida Keys.  Dr. Lyon directed the Flagler College St. Augustine Foundation for fourteen years. Together with his wife Dorothy (“Dot”) Lyon, he traveled throughout Colombia, Cuba and Spain cataloging and microfilming fragile archival collections.  The St. Augustine Foundation now holds more than a thousand reels of film of materials related to Spanish La Florida.  King Carlos of Spain installed Dr. Lyon as an Officer in the Order of Isabella the Catholic, and the President of the Dominican Republic made him a Commander in the Order of Christopher Columbus. The City of St. Augustine granted him its highest honor, the Order of La Florida, and the Florida Historical Society presented him the Jillian Prescott Award for lifetime service to Florida history. Dr. Gene Lyon is a “plank holder” (founding member) on the Santa Elena Foundation’s Board of Advisors.


Symposium Organizer and Moderator
Mr. James D. Spirek

State Underwater Archaeologist, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

James D. SpirekJames D. Spirek is the State Underwater Archaeologist and has been with the Institute since 1996. Jim’s responsibilities include managing and studying the maritime archaeological legacy residing in the lakes, rivers, and coastal waters of South Carolina.  Much of his research in the state has been devoted to documenting shipwrecks and other sites related to the American Civil War that include the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, USS Housatonic, the Stone Fleets, blockade runners and related casualties on the Charleston Harbor Naval Battlefield and other waterways in the state. Besides these research efforts, Spirek has participated in several projects to document sixteenth-century shipwrecks in South Carolina and elsewhere. He has directed and co-directed efforts to locate two sixteenth-century shipwrecks in state waters: Le Prince, a French corsair that wrecked off Port Royal Sound in 1577, and the Capitana of the Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón expedition, La Chorruca, believed wrecked in the vicinity of Winyah Bay in 1526.  Prior to working for the Institute, Jim spent three and a half years working for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research locating and recording shipwrecks in Pensacola Bay, Florida.  There he participated in the discovery and initial excavations of a sixteenth-century Spanish shipwreck associated with the 1559 Tristán de Luna y Arellano expedition.  As a graduate student, he assisted in recording the hull remains of a sixteenth-century Spanish dispatch vessel called the Western Ledge Reef Shipwreck off Bermuda.  Jim is also a co-editor of Submerged Cultural Resource Management: Preserving and Interpreting Our Sunken Maritime Heritage, discussing various examples in which the United States and other countries provide public access to these unique underwater archaeological sites. Jim received his B.A. in History from George Mason University in 1987 and his M.A. in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University in 1993.

Title:  “He who has weapons in his fist, and who is the strongest, carries the day”  —French Corsairing and the Final Voyage of Le Prince.

Abstract:  The discovery of the New World and its subsequent riches by Spain excited envy and jealousy among their European rivals, none more than by France.  Inspired by the words of Francis I, king of France, “I would like to see the clause in Adam’s will that excludes me from a share of the world,” Frenchmen eagerly took to the seas to contest Spain’s New World claims.  Besides engaging in voyages of exploration and colonization, the French also outfitted corsairs that attacked Spanish ships loaded with the bounty of the New World.  Initially waiting off the coast of Spain to strike at these incoming vessels, French corsairs eventually ventured forth to Peru, as they called the Spanish Main and Caribbean, to attack Spanish colonies and shipping and to trade with colonists and Native Americans.  Over the subsequent decades, French corsairs grew bolder and launched fleets to attack important towns including Havana, Cartagena, and Santiago de Cuba.  Typically, however, corsairs sailed forth singly or in small groups to raid and trade with Spanish towns and shipping.  In early 1577 a French corsair, Le Prince, struck the shoals off Santa Elena at present-day Port Royal Sound, South Carolina.  If not for stumbling on the shoals, Le Prince would have been another of the countless and nameless corsairs that successfully traded and raided the towns and ships in Spain’s New World possessions during the sixteenth-century.  In 2001, underwater archaeologists from the Maritime Research Division (MRD) of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina launched an on-going marine remote sensing survey to locate the physical remains of the corsair on the shoals at the entrance to Port Royal Sound.  The archaeologists also relied on both published and unpublished historical documents to aid in the search for the corsair. The presentation will discuss the development of French cosairing in Peru (New World) during the sixteenth-century and focus on the 1576-1577 voyage undertaken by Le Prince and the subsequent triumphs in the Caribbean and travails met after wrecking off Santa Elena.  Additionally, preliminary results from the archaeological survey will be discussed.


Professor Carla Rahn Phillips

Union Pacific Professor, Emerita, in Comparative Early Modern History, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; Faculty Research Affiliate, University of Texas – Austin.

Professor Carla Rahn PhillipsCarla Rahn Phillips earned her undergraduate degree at Pomona College in California, and her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at New York University. Her research focuses on the economic and social history of Europe, with an emphasis on Spain and its overseas connections. Among her representative publications are The Treasure of the San José: Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession. (Baltimore, 2007; Madrid, 2010); Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century (Baltimore, 1986; Madrid, 1991); “Visualizing Imperium: The ‘Virgin of the Seafarers’ and Spain’s Self–Image in the Early Sixteenth Century,” Renaissance Quarterly, 58, No. 3 (Fall 2005): 815–856; “‘The Life Blood of the Navy’: Recruiting Sailors in Eighteenth–Century Spain,” The Mariner’s Mirror 87, No. 4 (November 2001): 420–445; and “Time and Duration: A Model for the Economy of Early Modern Spain,” American Historical Review 92 (June 1987): 531–62. In addition, she has published three books and numerous articles with her husband, William D. Phillips, Jr.

 Title:  Iberian Seafaring and Naval Operations during the Sixteenth Century.

Abstract:  Although the symposium is focused on shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere, it seems useful to begin with an overview of the ships and men who sailed westward from Iberia during their working lives—in other words, before they became entries in the long list of disasters at sea. In the period from the late 15th to the late 16th centuries—generally known as the Age of Discoveries—voyages sponsored by Portugal and Spain learned many of the secrets of Atlantic seafaring, including how to avoid at least some of the perils they faced, especially in unknown waters. My colleagues at the symposium will deal with what happened when they failed to avoid those perils.


Dr. Don Keith

President, Ships of Discovery, and Research Affiliate, Turks & Caicos National Museum.

Dr Don KeithDon Keith has more than forty-five years of experience in prehistoric and historical terrestrial and underwater archaeology, participating or directing projects in ten countries across the globe. But his main interest, acquired during 12 years in the Nautical Archaeology program at Texas A&M, is the Age of Exploration and Discovery in the New World. He directed the Molasses Reef Wreck project since its beginning in 1981 and has continued to work on it and other archaeological investigations in the Turks & Caicos Islands for the last 37 years.  Between 1993 and 2011, he curated the 1554 Plate Fleet artifact collection and directed the conservation lab and repository for underwater finds for the state of Texas at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.

 Title:  Early 16th century shipwrecks in the New World.

 Abstract:  The search for and examination of ships lost in the New World during the 15th and 16th centuries poses special challenges while at the same time offering special rewards.  In the late 1970s the author and other graduate students at Texas A&M University began researching the history of the period and conducting surveys and investigations of early shipwreck sites, primarily in the Caribbean. Their efforts over the next two decades incorporated all the elements of nautical archaeology and contributed to a better understanding of not only how ships of the period were built, but also how they were armed and equipped. This information has been widely disseminated in scores of scientific and popular publications as well as four Master’s Theses and two Doctoral dissertations that came out of the program.


Dr. Paul E. Hoffman

Professor Emeritus of History, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Dr Paul E HoffmanPaul Hoffman earned his PhD, University of Florida, 1969. Hoffman’s research interest is the Spanish Empire in the greater Caribbean and Atlantic world, ca. 1500 to 1803, with special emphases on early Spanish Florida, military and economic history. Publications include A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient, the American Southeast During the Sixteenth Century (1990; Paperback, 2004); Florida’s Frontiers (2002); Spain and the Roanoke Voyages (1987); and Luisiana (Spain, 1992) as well as various articles, book chapters, and unpublished research papers. He has been a consultant to projects on the historical archaeology of both Santa Elena and St. Augustine. Hoffman is currently seeing Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, A History 1860-1919 through LSU Press (forthcoming fall 2019).  Other accomplishments and honors include Cruz de Oficial de la Orden de Isabela la Católica (Spain); Fellow, Louisiana Historical Association; Francis Parkman Prize, Society of American Historians; Distinguished Research Master in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Louisiana State University; Paul E. and Nancy W. Murrill Distinguished Professor Emeritus, LSU, Member of the Advisory Board, Santa Elena Foundation.

Title:  Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón’s discovery of Southeastern North America, 1521-26.

Abstract:  This paper will tell the story of how I reconstructed the voyages of 1521, 1525, and 1526 that Licenciado Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a judge from the High Court of Santo Domingo, sponsored while seeking to set up a colony on the southeastern coast of North America. The wreck of his principal ship in 1526 forced a change of plans and the failure of the colony following his death at San Miguel de Gualdape.


Mr. Barto Arnold

Director of Texas Operations, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University.

Barto ArnoldBarto Arnold was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. His BA and MA in Anthropology / Archaeology were earned at the University of Texas at Austin. He was assistant director of the field phase of the Padre Island Project and Assistant State Marine Archaeologist, succeeding Carl Clausen as project director and State Marine Archaeologist serving in that position from 1975 to 1997.  He moved to the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at TAMU in 1997 where he is now affiliated. While with INA he has been director of the investigation and excavation of the Civil War blockade-runner Denbigh, lost entering Galveston at the end of the war.

Title:  1554 Flota Wreck, Padre Island, Texas.

Abstract:  On April 29, 1554, three Spanish treasure ships wrecked on the south Texas coast. There were around 300 passengers on the ships, many of whom drowned in the disaster. The survivors began a long walk back to the northernmost settlement of Mexico which they thought to be only a day or two south of their position. As it turned out, it was much farther than that, and unfortunately the survivors ran afoul of the local Native Americans, who killed most of them before they reached Tampico. The Spanish authorities immediately dispatched to the wrecks a salvage expedition, which had considerable success in recovering the lost cargo. However, much still remained on the ocean floor, and in the late 1960’s a treasure hunting firm recovered artifacts from one of the shipwrecks. Shortly thereafter the Texas Antiquities Code was passed to preserve these sites for the people of Texas, and in 1972 and 1973 the Texas Antiquities Committee, as state agency, undertook the scientific excavation of another of the 1554 shipwrecks. The artifacts illustrated in this presentation are from the collection of the Texas Antiquities Committee.


Dr. Roger C. Smith

State Underwater Archaeologist, retired, Florida Division of Historical Resources.

Dr Roger C SmithDr. Roger C. Smith served for three decades as Florida’s State Underwater Archaeologist. He received his doctorate at Texas A&M University and has taught several undergraduate and graduate courses at Florida State University and the University of West Florida. Smith has directed a number of surveys and excavations throughout Florida and has worked extensively in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Africa. He has published widely in the field of nautical archaeology and is the author of Vanguard of Empire: Ships of Exploration in the Age of Columbus, An Atlas of Maritime Florida, and The Maritime Heritage of the Cayman Islands. He also is the editor of Submerged History: Underwater Archaeology in Florida, and Florida’s Lost Galleon: The Emanuel Point Shipwreck.

Title:  The Old Spaniard: Exploration and Analysis of the first shipwreck to be discovered from the 1559 expedition to colonize Florida.

Abstract:  The oldest shipwrecks to be discovered in Florida are located in the shallow waters of Pensacola Bay, one of the state’s most sheltered natural harbors. The well-preserved remains of three Spanish ships were part of the ill-fated fleet of Tristán de Luna, who commanded the first royal attempt to colonize Florida for the Crown.  Investigation of these shipwrecks has opened a long-forgotten chapter in early Spanish-American history and has galvanized the world of public archaeology in Florida. This presentation describes the discovery, investigation, and analysis of the first Luna vessel to be discovered–the Emanuel Point I Shipwreck.


Dr. John R. Bratten

Professor/Chair, University of West Florida.

Dr John R BrattenJohn R. Bratten is a nautical archaeologist and conservator for the University of West Florida.  A graduate of the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, he has experience in the analysis and conservation of artifacts from diverse sources including those from the sunken 17th-century town of Port Royal, Jamaica, to Revolutionary War munitions recovered from Lake Champlain. Following his employment with the University of West Florida in 1996, Bratten has served as principal investigator for numerous underwater archaeology projects including the 2006 and 2016 discoveries of the second and third shipwrecks from the 1559 Spanish colonization fleet of Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano. He is a professor and chair of UWF’s Anthropology Department.

Title:  Ballast and Timbers Beneath the Sand: Exploration and Analysis of the Second and Third Shipwrecks to be Discovered from the 1559 Expedition to Colonize Florida.

Abstract:  Students and faculty associated with the University of West Florida’s Maritime Archaeological Field methods discovered the second Emanuel Point Shipwreck in 2006 and identified the third in 2016. Both vessels contain an extensive and well-preserved assemblage of mid-sixteenth-century artifacts and exhibit well-preserved hull remains. This paper will summarize the current stage of historical research, archaeological investigation, and future directions.


Mr. Chuck Meide

Director, Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Chuck MeideChuck Meide was born and raised in the coastal town of Atlantic Beach, Florida. He attended Florida State University, receiving both Bachelor’s (1993) and Master’s (2001) degrees in Anthropology, with a focus on Underwater Archaeology. He undertook PhD studies in Historic Archaeology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia the following year. Chuck has worked on a wide variety of shipwreck sites dating from the 16th to 20th centuries throughout Florida and in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Vermont, Bermuda, Australia, Ireland, and several Caribbean islands. Since 2006 he has served as the Director of LAMP at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, where he has led the excavation of several sunken vessels, including the 18th-century Storm Wreck and Anniversary Wreck.

Title: Jean Ribault’s Lost French Fleet of 1565: The Search for and Discovery of the Earliest French Shipwrecks in Florida

Abstract: Sixteenth-century France was a vigorous, expansionist nation emerging from feudalism and dreaming of a New World empire to rival that of Spain. Two expeditions were launched in 1562 and 1564 to establish a French foothold in the vast territory known Le Floride. The first attempt, at the future site of Santa Elena, ended in abandonment and a harrowing ocean voyage back to Europe with few survivors. The second attempt established Fort Caroline at present-day Jacksonville, Florida. In May 1565, a fleet under command of Jean Ribault was assembled in France to bring much needed supplies, munitions, troops, and settlers to Fort Caroline. Within weeks of its departure, the Spanish king dispatched Pedro Menéndez with a rival fleet to intercept Ribault and eradicate the French presence in what he considered his own territory. With the aid of a sudden and tremendous storm that wrecked Ribault’s four largest ships, Spanish forces would deal the deathblow to French Florida, taking Fort Caroline, putting the shipwreck survivors to the sword, and founding the nation’s first permanent European settlement at St. Augustine. To mark the 450th anniversary of these events, both LAMP and the state of Florida launched independent attempts to find Ribault’s lost shipwrecks in 2014. It was two years later, however, that one of these lost ships was discovered, by a commercial treasure hunting company off Cape Canaveral. A U.S. federal court has recently ruled this shipwreck, which appears to be Ribault’s flagship La Trinité, as the property of France, and an agreement was subsequently signed between the Republic of France and the State of Florida to jointly manage and investigate the site. This paper will overview the history of the French colonization attempt in Florida, the search for the lost vessels, and the discovery and potential archaeological significance of the wreckage believed to be La Trinité.


Dr. Corey Malcom

Director of Archaeology, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

Dr Corey MalcomCorey Malcom is the Director of Archaeology for the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, in Key West, Florida, a position he has held for 30 years. In his career, he has had the good fortune to share in the exploration of the shipwrecks of the 1622 galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the 1700 English slave ship Henrietta Marie, the Manila galleon Concepcion of 1638, and the 1827 Cuban pirate-slaver Guerrero, among others. Dr. Malcom is a graduate of Indiana and Nova Southeastern Universities, and he received a PhD at the University of Huddersfield, England, for his study of the 1564 galleon Santa Clara.

Title:  On the Eve of La Florida: The Wreck of Santa Clara and the Tierra Firme fleet of 1563-1564.

Abstract:  In the summer of 1991, St. Johns Expeditions, a Florida-based marine salvage company, discovered a shipwreck along the western edge of the Little Bahama Bank. The site was soon determined to be a Spanish ship dating to the 1500’s and one that could contribute to the knowledge of the era. Between 1992 and 1999, six excavations were conducted at the site under the direction of the presenter. Careful analysis of the shipwreck and its materials shows that the sizeable vessel sailed between 1555 and 1575 and had touched at Tierra Firme (Colombia and Panama) before sinking during a return voyage to Spain.  By comparing the archaeological evidence to the historical record, it is clear that the “St. Johns” shipwreck is the Santa Clara, a 300-ton Carrera de Indias trader owned by the famed Spanish mariner Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. In October of 1564, while returning to Spain, it grounded on a reef in the western Bahamas. The people on board, along with a cargo of silver, were safely removed to an accompanying ship, and Santa Clara was abandoned. Today, the remains of the ill-fated galeón, combined with its history, offer important insights into the Spanish colonial maritime system and the world of Pedro Menéndez just ahead of his Florida adventure.


Dr. Brad Loewen

Professor of Contact Period Archaeology, Post-medieval Archaeology, and Maritime Archaeology, Anthropology Department, Université de Montréal

Dr Brad LoewenBrad Loewen was part of the Parks Canada team that studied the wreck of the San Juan, a 16th-century Basque whaling ship that sank at Red Bay, Labrador. His doctoral dissertation was on the cargo of whale-oil casks from the same wreck. He collaborated on the study of several wrecks including the Mary Rose, La Belle and the Cavalaire-sur-Mer medieval ship. He is now a professor of historical and maritime archaeology at the University of Montréal. He excavated the site in Old Montréal where the city was founded in 1642, and his present research project named Contact By Sea focusses on relations between Basques and Indigenous peoples in the maritime context of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the 16th-18th centuries.

Title: The Wreck of the San Juan, a Basque Whaler at Red Bay, Labrador (1565)

Abstract:  From 1543 to 1579, as many as thirty Basque whalers sailed each year for the Labrador coast. Their principal destination was Red Bay, which the Basques called Buitres after the migratory seabirds they encountered during their summer and fall sojourns. In December 1565, when the ships were almost fully loaded for their return voyage, a storm broke the San Juan’s main anchors and drove the ship against the rocky shore. Salvors recovered most of the cargo the following year, but the hull and about 200 casks of whale oil were lost … until the wreck’s discovery in 1978 by Parks Canada underwater archaeologists. What followed is the story of an innovative excavation and a painstaking reconstruction of the ship’s architecture, its timber supply and its carpentry methods that have become a signature for recognising 16th century Basque ships. Just as importantly, ongoing study of the wreck and its related land site is showing how Basque whalers and fishermen interacted with Indigenous peoples, who played a much greater role in early transatlantic ventures than was previously known.


Dr. Gordon P. Watts, Jr.

Director: Tidewater Atlantic Research, Inc.

Dr Gordon P Watts JrGordon Watts has been involved in maritime history and underwater archaeology for five decades. After working for the Florida Division of Archives, History and Records Management on shipwrecks in the Florida Keys and at Little Salt and Warm Mineral Springs, he returned to North Carolina to set up and manage the state’s underwater archaeology program.  In 1981, Watts resigned from that position to join Dr. William N. Still to establish and co-direct a graduate studies program in Maritime History and Underwater Archaeology at East Carolina University. In 2001, he retired to concentrate on contract CRM work through Tidewater Atlantic Research, Inc., and special historical and underwater archaeological projects through the Institute for International Maritime Research. During his career that spans 50 years, Dr. Watts has focused on teaching and research projects related to shipwrecks, their design, construction, and role in the five-century spectrum of Atlantic maritime history.

Title: The Western Ledge Reef Shipwreck: A Sixteenth-Century Spanish Patache off the Isle of Devils.

Abstract:  Bermuda’s shipwrecks and maritime history are a major focus of the National Museum of Bermuda (former Bermuda Maritime Museum [BMM] 1974-2009).  Perhaps not surprising in an island nation that originated with early seventeenth-century shipwreck survivors. For more than three decades, Dr. Gordon Payne Watts, Jr. has worked with Dr. Edward Harris and museum personnel to identify and investigate the rich and diverse underwater archaeological evidence of that heritage that survives on the reefs surrounding the islands.  Working with volunteers and students from East Carolina University (ECU) and other academic institutions, shipwrecks associated with four centuries of exploration, colonization, development, trade, and warfare have been studied.  Bermuda shipwrecks reflect the international nature of historical navigation in the North Atlantic.  Today, the remains of those vessels provide one of the most comprehensive concentrations of submerged cultural resources available for research.  In September 1988 ECU graduate students led by Professor Gordon Watts identified the remains of an early shipwreck during a survey of the Western Ledge Reefs carried out for the BMM. Structural material exposed at the wreck site proved to be a section of lower hull containing the keel, hull planking, frames, and a portion of the keelson that included a mast‐step.  Known as the Western Ledge Reef shipwreck, the remains of the sailing ship provide insight into sixteenth-century Spanish exploration and colonization in the New World.  Dr. Watts will discuss early underwater work, historical research, and on-going studies related to this intriguing shipwreck located off the Isle of Devils.