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Pic: 300-year-old warship discovered off coast of southern state

Under the surface of the ocean. (Unsplash)
June 27, 2024

A historic shipwreck in Florida was identified as a sunken British warship earlier this year in a remarkable discovery.

Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida has long been a popular spot for tourists, outdoorsman and history buffs. Home to Fort Jefferson, one of the largest and best preserved 19th century forts remaining, thousands of people visit the area annually.

Unknown to visitors and park managers alike, they were in proximity to the ruins of one of history’s most famous shipwrecks: the HMS Tyger. According to Dry Tortugas National Park, archeologists have identified the ship’s remains.

Built in the 1600s, the HMS Tyger was a 50-gun warship that sunk in the Florida Keys during the War of Jenkins Ear in 1742. According to the International Journal of Nautical Archeology, the Tyger ran aground, with all 300 crew members surviving. The men found shelter on what is now Garden Key, surviving 66 days before escaping on makeshift boats built from the remains of the Tyger.

Following their departure from Garden Key, the crew endured another 55-day journey at sea before reaching Port Royal, Jamaica.

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The shipwreck debris, now identified as belonging to the Tyger, was first located in 1993. Written accounts of the wreck, however, stated that the crew had burned the remaining ship. In late 2023, archeologists working with the National Park positively identified the ship.

“Archeological finds are exciting, but connecting those finds to the historical record helps us tell the stories of the people that came before us and the events they experienced,” Dry Tortugas park manager James Crutchfield told the Jerusalem Post. “This particular story is one of perseverance and survival. National parks help to protect these untold stories as they come to light.”

According to USA Today, a single entry discovered in a logbook was the catalyst for the discovery. “Buried in the margins of the old logbooks was a reference that described how the crew ‘lightened her forward’ after initially running aground, briefly refloating the vessel and then sinking in shallow water,” a spokesperson for the National Park Service said.

This entry led to the reevaluation of five cannons that were found in the vicinity of the shipwreck. It was determined the cannons were British six and nine pound cannons, which the crew had thrown off the ship in an effort to prevent enemy possession.

The HMS Tyger was the first of three British ships to sink in the Florida Keys. The HMS Fowey sank in 1748 and was discovered in 1975. The HMS Looe sank in 1744, with shipwreck remains discovered in 1950. Identifying the remains of the Tyger closes a chapter in British-American wartime history, giving a name to a ship once believed to be lost to time.