Court Rules Shipwreck Found Off Florida Belongs To France

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – A federal court has ruled that a shipwreck discovered off of Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2016 belongs to France and not the treasure hunters, Global Marine Exploration, Inc. (GME).

U.S. Middle District of Florida Court Magistrate Karla Spaulding ruled that the three 16th Century French shipwrecks discovered in shallow water just east of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by GME divers in 2016 were part of a fleet led by the flagship la Trinite and commanded by French captain Jean Ribault.

In 1565, Ribault was on a mission for the French navy to reinforce and resupply Fort Caroline, a French settlement located at the mouth of the St. Johns River that would later become Jacksonville, Florida.

Claiming all rights to Florida, Spain wanted to oust the French from their New World territory and engaged in a series of battles and skirmishes on land and sea.

Ribault encountered and pursued a Spanish fleet to St. Augustine, Florida on September 7, 1565.

But the Spanish managed escape Ribault’s fleet by sailing their lighter vessels over a shallow sandbar which the French galleons were too large to cross.

However, the Spanish flagship San Pelayo was also too large to enter the St. Augustine inlet and was sent away to seek refuge from the French at Hispaniola.

Ribault then decided to pursue San Pelayo, but at the peak of hurricane season on September 11, his fleet was forced south towards Cape Canaveral by a hurricane where the French fleet ultimately sank.

Because warships that have sailed for a foreign country remain the property of that country under the U.S. Sunken Military Craft Act, the court ruled that the la Trinite remains the property of France.

Identifying artifacts in shipwrecks off Cape Canaveral include, three highly ornate bronze cannon (2-10’ and 1-7’), 19 iron cannon, 12 anchors, a 39-inch grinding wheel as well as scattered ballast and munitions, and a marble monument with the fleur-de-lis Coat of Arms of France.

Photo credit: Global Marine Exploration, Inc.