GEORGETOWN, S.C. ˜ Two miles off a deserted beach, the research vessel
C-Hawk, its course plotted by satellite navigation signals, makes a
180-degree turn and heads back the way it came.
One mile and it will turn again, recording the ocean floor's magnetic
profile as systematically as if it were a tractor plowing a field.
In the past month, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and
Anthropology research vessel has surveyed 6 square miles of the ocean
bottom outside the mouth of Winyah Bay, searching for the 500-year old
flagship of the expedition that established America's first colony ˜ on
the Georgia coast."If the Spanish had this kind of navigation gear in the 16th century, we
probably wouldn't be out here looking for this ship now," grins
archaeologist Jim Spirek, looking up from the computer screen in the cabin
of the C-Hawk.
In August 1526, as Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon's fleet of six ships plied
these waters, depths were determined by dangling a lead weight overboard
at the end of a line. The method had its limitations. Ayllon's flagship
ran aground ˜ and the first European effort to colonize the mainland of
North America began to go horribly awry.
American history brims with accounts of Jamestown, Plymouth Rock and Sir
Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke. But there isn't much said about
Ayllon's effort to establish a colony of 600 people nearly a century
One reason is that the colony, San Miguel de Gualdape, was an abject
failure. The other is that no trace has ever been found of Ayllon's
initial landing on the Carolina coast or the short-lived colony he
established later in Georgia.