Brick Wreck

Fish swimming among the large wooden remains of a shipwreck
The Brick Wreck's hull provides places for small fish to hide. Photo: Brenda Altmeier/NOAA

Largely buried in Hawk Channel's muddy sediment three-quarters of a mile seaward of Vaca Key, this shipwreck is known for the brick cargo it once carried. While the actual date the ship went down is not known, researchers believe it sank in the mid-19th century.


Based on measurements of the hull's architectural dimensions, as well as analysis of wood samples, the Brick Wreck appears to represent a heavily built cargo carrier from New England that was loaded with a large shipment of bricks that required little ballast to stabilize the vessel. How it was rigged is not yet known, since no mast steps were found and no standing or running rigging components, such as chainplates, eyebolts, or deadeyes, were observed. They may be buried in the surrounding sediments, as suggested by a number of metal detector readings around the periphery of the hull. The New England origin of the Brick Wreck is confirmed by preliminary analysis of ballast stone samples and supported by the remnants of its cargo of bricks that appear to have been manufactured in the Northeast. Diagnostic ceramic sherds were found to be English pottery made for the American market. A distinctive glass saucer fragment, made in Massachusetts in 1840, provides a terminus post quem (the earliest date the shipwreck might have occurred) for the grounding of the brick carrier.


The Brick Wreck is oriented east-southeast to west-northwest with the bow pointing to the east-southeastward (120 degrees magnetic north). The site lies on a muddy sand bottom, as a result, visibility averages around 15 feet. The bottom terrain is flat and interspersed with seagrass beds. The shipwreck's keel with a sided thickness of 12 inches is exposed at its stern, aft of where the keelson terminates. Concreted remnants of iron drift bolts and treenails were observed fastening the garboard strakes in the stern. Below the after terminus of the keelson, the keel was found to be notched to accept the aftermost half frame.

The lower portion of the ship's hull is exposed and measures approximately 76 feet 8 inches in length, with a beam of at least 15 feet at the widest part. Archaeologists documented several remaining timbers and features of the site including:

  • a portion of the keel
  • eroded remains of the keelson
  • stem and sternposts
  • floor and half frames
  • canted half frames in the bow section
  • scant remains of first futtocks
  • remains of half frames in the stern
  • ceiling
  • hull planking
  • a large concretion amidships on port
  • small ballast stones in the after portion of the hull

During investigations of the Brick Wreck, researchers recovered a total of 30 artifacts and nearly 20 samples of ballast and slate. The artifact assemblage consisted of two types of ceramic wares, bottle base fragments, cup plate and lantern glass shards, and two whole bricks.

(Smith et al., 2006b)

Site Map

Archaeological drawing of the shipwreck
Brick Wreck site map. Credit: Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research