Friday, April 27, 2012

The Florida drought continues, the lakes keep shrinking and the ancient canoes keep appearing.  Last November Toni Wallace from the FPAN -NE Center and Donna Ruhl from the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) recorded a canoe in Putnam County (see blog of 11/30/11).  Since then several more recently exposed canoes have been brought to the attention of the site team.  Now this is really a two edged sword.  The FPAN Site Team loves to go out to a canoe site to record as many canoes as possible to increase the data base on Florida's ancient canoes.  But the downside is that exposed canoes quickly deteriorate when not protected by lake water.  Preservation is expensive and there are not enough repositories for large artifacts like an ancient canoe.  Which only leaves the option of recording the canoe and hoping for rain to refill the lake.

Little Lake Johnson at Gold Head Branch State Park

Early in 2012, the Center received a call from the park staff at the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights, Clay County.  Little Lake Johnson in the park had shrunk to two small shallow puddles killing a lot of the fish and exposing a canoe.  So Toni Wallace grabbed her camera, measuring tape, water-proof boots and Florida Master Site File forms and headed for the park.  Although Donna was not able to accompany her this time, she forwarded a museum canoe form and requested a wood sample be sent to the Museum to be radio carbon dated and analyzed for wood species. 

Toni Wallace, Site Specialist, FPAN - NE

Brenna Van Ness, Acting Park Manager
 Brenna Van Ness, Acting Park Manager, drove Toni to the shrunken lake.  The canoe was about 10 meters from the old shore line but getting to the canoe proved to be a unique experience. The lake had dried into foot sized blocks of mud that wobbled and dipped like a carnival fun house floor. A walk across the mud blocks to the exposed canoe threatened to pitch Toni face down into the dead fish laden mud bottom.  As we wobbled our way closer to the canoe, the mud softened, again threatening to sink our boots up to our ankles.  But we made it to the side of the canoe and photographed, measured, and removed a wood sample from the gunwale area of the starboard side.  The canoe was a large one measuring 6.2 meters in length.  The bow and stern were in fairly good shape but sun and wind exposure had negatively impacted the middle portion of the canoe resulting in collapse of the sides.  Sadly continued exposure would surely result in further deterioration. 

Stern of Canoe

Bow of Canoe

Deteriorated Middle Portion of Canoe

But the Little Lake Johnson Canoe has now been recorded on the Florida Master Site file, #8CL01533, along with maps, a report, site drawing, photographs and a FLMNH canoe form.  The wood sample was mailed to the Museum.  Soon we should have another entry in the inventory of ancient Florida canoes with the radio carbon date obtained and wood species identified.  But there is one last piece of good news.  The recent rain has partially refilled Little Lake Johnson almost completely covering our ancient canoe.  Keep your fingers crossed for continued good rains in the area.  And stay tuned for additional field adventures recording Florida's ancient sites in the Florida Master Site File.

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