Breaking News
More () »

Blast from the past! -Scientists weigh in on cannonball found on local beach

20-pound cannonball could be from the 1800's

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Craig Oneal of Ponte Vedra Beach unearthed a cannonball on the beach, he didn’t know much about what he had found.

First Coast News promised to get him some answers.

Oneal remembers December 9th, "It was just an ordinary day on the beach."

He was swinging his metal detector along the sand at near Vilano Beach, when the metal detector started to beep, beep beep. 

So Oneal dug a hole "about 3.5 to 4 feet deep."

He found treasure in the form of a cannonball.

"It was all of 20 pounds," he said.  

He estimates it was 10 - 12 inches in diameter. 

Oneal was unsure about what to do, so he decided to call the the police. 

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies ultimately came out, took the cannonball, detonated it, and told Oneal that no pieces were left over.

First Coast News sent photos of the cannonball to archaeologists at the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeology Maritime Program. 

"Well, there’s only so much we can learn," Archaeologist Chuck Meide chuckled.

He never saw or held the cannonball, but he could tell that is was "a pretty big shell."

Meide estimates the mortar shell most likely dates to the 1800’s, possibly the 1700’s.

"It could have been something fired from the Castillo," he said. "There were times when St. Augustine was under siege in the 1700’s."

The Castillo de San Marcos (the fort in downtown St. Augustine) is only a few miles from where the cannonball was found.

Meide said the cannonball could also be from a shipwreck.

"There were vessels armed with mortar. So it’s possible there’s a vessel that wrecked or lost ordnance somehow," Meide noted. 

Andrew Thomson, an archaeological conservator with the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, said, "The area between St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and North Vilano Beach seems to get a lot of wreckage that washes up."

Oneal smiled hearing the news, "That’s incredible to find something that old that’s been sitting there for who knows how long!"

These archaeologists say the deputies did the right thing by taking possession of the cannonball because even old wet cannonballs can still be active.

Thomson said, "If sealed up nice and tight, it can still explode."

Oneal wants to see what else it out there. "If it’s from a shipwreck that means there’s more of them!"

So he’ll be back out looking.

"Oh yeah! Definitely looking now," he laughed. "I’m hooked!"


Before You Leave, Check This Out