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Cannons on top of Castillo de San Marcos removed for restoration work

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla -- Historic cannons, one weighing 8,000 pounds, were lifted off the fort and placed onto a barge so they could be restored. One by one, 12 cannons were lifted by a crane Thursday.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. --Lifting something that weights what a hippopotamus weighs is tricky business.

That's what happened at the Castillo de San Marcos Thursday in St. Augustine.

Cannons, one weighing 8,000 pounds, were lifted off the fort and placed onto a barge so they could be restored.

One by one, 12 cannons were lifted by a crane Thursday.

"Some of them date to the 1690's," Steve Roberts with the National Park Service said.

"We're going to take those cannons back to Texas," Chris Dostal said. He is an archaeologist with Texas A&M University. "And we're going to conserve them. They're all rusting right now. So we're going to get rid of that rust and we're going to chemically stabilize them."

"They're heavy," he nodded. "That one right there is about 8,000 pounds."

"Up here on the gun deck, 5,800 pounds was the heaviest one," Roberts said.

The cannons will ride on a barge to Jacksonville. Dostal said it will take about 10 hours to get there. And then once there, they'll be hoisted to a flat-bed truck and driven to the Lone Star State

Texas A&M won the bid to restore the cannons at a cost of $450,000, according to Roberts.

"It's paid 100 percent by the visitor fees," Roberts noted. The cannons project will take 2-5 years and they will be returned to the fort.

Texas A&M has worked on some other weighty projects.

"Actually right now, we're working on cannons from the Alamo," Dostal said. "We have the ship that was found under the World Trade Center."

This week, the team had to use muscles and chains to move the cannons on top of the fort, so that the barge could pick them up.

"Because you can't get a forklift in here (the fort)," Roberts explained.

All this work, as well as the use of a modern crane, gives the team a new appreciation for how the Spaniards moved these iron beasts hundreds of years ago.

"It's fantastic. I feel bad for the Spanish who had to get them up here initially because they didn't have these kinds of tools," Dostal said.

The cannons which are fired by volunteers and staff will remain. They are reproductions. Cannon firing demonstrations at the fort will continue Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

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