A bicyclist in Cocoa, Florida, surveying damage last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma came across a piece of debris that appeared much different from the other branches and trunks strewn about.
"Look what Irma kicked up out of the bottom of the Indian River, a dugout canoe," wrote Randy Shots excitedly on Facebook. "Florida State Dept of Historical Resources has been notified, they are sending an archeologist in the morning."
According to the Florida Division of Historical Resources (DHR), the dugout canoe is roughly 15 feet long, weighs hundreds of pounds and is cut from cypress. Completely waterlogged, it was likely preserved from rot through submersion in the brackish waters of Florida's 121-mile-long Indian River. When Irma came along, the intense storm surge scooped it up and deposited it on shore.
"Florida has the highest concentration of archaeological dugouts in the world with more than 400 from the state," officials wrote on Facebook. "Wooden artifacts like canoes are only preserved in constantly wet environments or constantly dry environments. Because Florida is so wet, it has an environment conducive to preservation of wood."
The dugout, now safe in a protective water bath, will next be carbon tested to determine its age. Initial assessments put it at anywhere from several decades old to several hundred years old.
"If it is determined to be historic, the canoe will be stabilized, preserved and hopefully it will ultimately be displayed locally for the public to enjoy and learn from," the DHR added.