New exhibit explores the remarkable history of Dog Island shipwrecks
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The newest exhibit at the Carrabelle History Museum explores the fascinating history of Dog Island and the many ships that met their fate on that small stretch of sand.
The exhibit occupies the sparkling second floor of the history museum, recently refurbished thanks to funding from state grants.
Curator Joan Matey said she knew it was the right time to explore Dog Island’s mysterious past.
“I think everybody loves a shipwreck,” she said. “We knew we had a lot of good information and great photographs to tell the story well.”
In 1899, a powerful hurricane slammed into Florida’s Big Bend, obliterating an armada of European lumber ships.
Matey says Carrabelle was a bustling international deep-water port, thanks to Europe’s hunger for lumber.
When the storm came, ships from countries all over the map were left stranded on Dog Island.
Their stories were mostly lost to time until FSU student Chuck Meide launched a 1999 study into the ships’ origins.
“It’s just such a romantic place, the idea of shipwrecks on this lost desert island, is a really enticing image,” said Meide, who now works as a maritime archeologist in St. Augustine.
He said the wrecks unlocked key insights into how the world worked centuries ago.
“There’s just a wealth of information that is hidden among the wooden bones of those ships,” he said.
A new, even more, unbelievable chapter in the ships’ history was written in the aftermath of the 2018′s devastating Hurricane Michael.
“I guess my jaw dropped, I was awe-stricken,” Meide said.
Those wooden bones were completely revealed. The sands disappeared thanks to the storm’s powerful wind, leaving behind the most complete view of the shipwrecks to date.
And while the sand covered some of the wreckage back up in the following weeks, incredible drone footage now serves as a lasting reminder of those remarkable few days.
The exhibit, which opened in late 2022, features both sets of photos, taken 120 years apart. The collection also features pieces of wood and metal discovered over the years.
Matey said the new, permanent exhibit is already a big hit. But for some visitors, it’s more personal than others.
“Sometimes, somebody walks through the door and it’s the grandson of someone who was on one of the boats, so we keep getting more and more stories to add,” she said.
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