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[photo]
Historic photo of the Lofthus
Photo courtesy of Underwater Archaeological Preserves, Florida Division of Historical Resources

The Lofthus shipwreck is one of the few remaining examples of iron-hulled sailing vessels that plied the waters of Florida, and the world, in the late 19th century. Originally named the Cashmere, the vessel was built in Sunderland, England, by T.R. Oswald and launched on October 5, 1868. Owned by the Liverpool Shipping Company and managed by H. Fernie & Sons, the Cashmere was intended to travel the globe; false gunports were painted along her sides to deter Sumatran and Javanese pirates. Constructed of riveted iron, the barque measured 222 feet in length, 36.7 feet in beam and had a depth of hold of 22.7 feet. The ship was rated at 1,277 gross tons with two decks and one cemented bulkhead. In 1897, Cashmere was sold to a Norwegian named Henschien, renamed Lofthus, and transferred to the American trade.

On February 4, 1898, while en route from Pensacola to Buenos Aires with a cargo of lumber, Lofthus wrecked on the east coast of Florida. The local sea-going tug Three Friends (which usually was engaged in running guns to Cuba) attempted to assist the stranded barque, which was high on the beach and quickly being pounded to pieces by waves. The crew of 16 men was saved but the vessel was a total loss. While stranded on the beach, Lofthus' Captain Fromberg, traveling with his family, entertained local residents and gave the ship's dog and cat to one family. After being stripped of all useable items, the wreck was sold along with 800,000 feet of lumber stowed in the hold for $1,000. In September 1898, the hull, which was not nearly as valuable as the cargo, was dynamited so that the lumber could be salvaged.

[photo] Lofthus shipwreck
Photos courtesy of www.splashdowndivers.com

The blasting of the hull produced a scattered wreck site approximately 290 feet long by 50 feet wide, with three main areas of wreckage. The ship's bow is at the north end of the site and includes deck beams and hull elements. Visible in the midships area are deck beams and deck plates together with fasteners, hanging knees and a worm gear (possibly associated with the vessel's steering mechanism or with a deck-mounted donkey engine). Toward the stern, a section of iron mast as well as additional pieces of decking and beams protrude from the sand. The Lofthus has stabilized in the marine environment and can, through future archeological investigation, provide additional information about late 19th-century merchant ships, the combination of metal hulls and sail propulsion in sea-going vessels and coastal maritime commerce and transportation.

The Lofthus is located approximately 3/4 of a mile north of Boynton Beach and 175 yards off-shore of Manalapan. It rests in 15-20 feet of water, with wreckage rising as much as six feet off the sea floor depending on sand movement. The shipwreck is located within a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve, and a laminated underwater guide is available from local dive shops. The preserve is open to the public year round, free of charge. To avoid anchor loss or damage to the shipwreck, please anchor in the sand.

Florida's Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History features a Teaching with Historic Places online lesson plan, The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea. This lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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