Hurricane Irma’s most famous local historical artifact – a now well-studied 13-foot Southern Red Cedar dugout canoe that washed up north of Cocoa on Sept. 11, 2017 – is coming home for good, with a few remaining mysteries.
The Florida Division of Historical Resources has selected Cape Canaveral where the ancient canoe will remain in the Community Artifacts Room located in City Hall, 100 Polk Ave. It will have a prominent permanent display in the C.A.P.E. Center, the city’s first arts and cultural institution, which is currently in the design phase and on target for completion in 2020. “It was a big surprise and we’re thrilled to get it. Irma was devastating but I like it when good things happen during a hurricane. Its discovery was a bright point in a dark time,’’ said Molly Thomas, Cape Canaveral cultural programs manager.
A welcome event will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 28 at City Hall featuring the canoe finder, historical shipwreck salver Randy Lathrop, and presentations by archaeologists from Paleo West Archaeology, Tallahassee. The exhibit will be opened to the public from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“The Irma dugout is one of over 400 examples of historic canoes from Florida. No single dugout is the same as the next, and all are worthy of study. But, the amount of research conducted on the Irma dugout sets it apart from all others previously discovered — it is the single most well-researched logboat from Florida,’’ said Paleo West Office Principal Julie Duggins.
Techniques applied to the study of the canoe included dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating, thin-section wood identification and pXRF analysis, she said. Last fall, University of South Florida Libraries created a 3D-image computer rendering of the canoe.
“Scientists have collected a large amount of data from the Irma dugout and have worked collaboratively to interpret its unique history,’’ she said.
But, even after all the study to date, there remains questions about its origin and use other than it was made by Europeans rather than Native Americans and was used in several different periods. Radiocarbon dating has determined there is a 50 percent probability the canoe dates from between 1640 to 1680.
“I’m really glad it’s coming back to the Cape. I think it’s cool because it’s a mystery still,’’ Lathrop said.