The Republic of France and the State of Florida, represented by Consul General of France in Miami Clément Leclerc and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, respectively, signed a Declaration of Intention outlining a historic partnership to research, protect and preserve the Trinité shipwreck located off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida. La Trinité was the flagship of French Explorer Captain Jean Ribault’s fleet during his expedition to Florida in 1565, which is among the early periods of European presence in what is now the State of Florida and a major part of French and American history.
Clément Leclerc, Consul General of France in Miami said, “The shipwreck of La Trinité has a major historical value for both France and Florida. The French royal expeditions of the 16th century were one of the first European endeavors in North America. We have an excellent cooperation with the State of Florida. Our common goal is to make sure that the vestiges of Jean Ribault’s fleet will be preserved and presented to the public here in the Sunshine State.”
La Trinité wrecked during a storm in 1565 off the coast of Florida in the midst of a conflict with Spain over control in the New World as both France and Spain sought to claim Florida. France established its first settlement in 1562, which failed, and its second settlement, Fort Caroline, in 1564.
King Philip II of Spain sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to Florida to establish Spain’s presence and put an end to France’s presence in Florida. Menéndez arrived in 1565 and formally founded St. Augustine. Soon after, a conflict with Ribault ensued which ended in the wreck of Ribault’s ship La Trinité during a storm and the overtaking of the French Fort Caroline by Menéndez. This event in history is hugely significant because it marked the end of French presence in Florida and solidified Spanish rule in Florida for almost the next 200 years.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner said, “The Declaration of Intention between Florida and France is a significant step forward in ensuring that an important piece of French and American history is researched, protected and preserved in a respectful and appropriate manner. The State of Florida is honored to work with France on this historic project.”
The Declaration of Intention outlines Florida and France’s agreement to protect and document this significant archaeological site. The agreement emphasizes public education about the shipwreck, including the public display or sharing of any cultural material recovered, and the role that Jean Ribault played in Florida’s history. The agreement also outlines the creation of a steering committee that will guide France and Florida’s efforts in the study and recovery of the shipwreck.
Under a federal court order and pursuant to the Sunken Military Craft Act, La Trinité is the property of the Republic of France and they are the only entity able to authorize any recovery operations or activity associated with the site.
The site is protected under Florida law and it is illegal to excavate and/or remove any material from the site. Section 267.13, Florida Statutes, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to remove artifacts from an archaeological site without authorization. The site is frequently patrolled by law enforcement and is monitored. Any suspicious or unusual activity will be reported to local and state law enforcement.
More updates will be shared at a later date as the project progresses.
About The Division of Historical Resources
The Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources (DHR) is responsible for preserving and promoting Florida’s historical, archaeological, and folk culture resources. The Division Director’s office oversees a grants-in-aid program to help preserve and maintain Florida’s historic buildings and archaeological sites; coordinates outreach programs such as the State Historic Markers program and the Florida Folklife program which identifies and promotes the state’s traditional culture. DHR directs historic preservation efforts throughout the state in cooperation with state and federal agencies, local governments, private organizations, and individuals. The Division Director serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer, acting as the liaison with the national historic preservation program conducted by the National Park Service. The Division is comprised of two Bureaus, archaeological research and historic preservation. For more information visit flheritage.com.