One last dive: student divers search for pieces of the Governor’s Stone ahead of dredging

Students from the Panama City Marine Institute search for remnants of Governor Stone wreckage
Students from the Panama City Marine Institute search for remnants of Governor Stone wreckage(wjhg)
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 10:42 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2023 at 8:21 AM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In a last-ditch effort to save any missing pieces of Panama City history, student divers dropped into the St. Andrews Marina to find any remaining wreckage from the Governor Stone on Thursday.

“The Governor Stone is a 146-year-old sailing schooner. She was totally de-masted and capsized during Hurricane Michael back in 2018,” Colleen Reilly, president of Friends of the Governor Stone, said.

For nearly five years, the team at FOGS has worked tirelessly on the restoration of the schooner. While volunteers sometimes help with the boat itself, a team of students took on a unique volunteer effort of their own.

Student divers from the AMIkids Panama City Marine Academy dropped into the water on the hunt for lost pieces of the boat.

“We’re hoping that there might be a large piece of wood, that if we can’t reuse it on the vessel, we could actually make a pattern from it. We don’t know if there’s a ship bell, or maybe even brass fittings for the main mast that was splintered, and we only have parts of it, so if we can find additional parts that would be helpful as well,” Reilly said.

Despite their age, the students were a perfect fit for the task.

“They’re already certified, some of them are already advanced divers and everything like that. It gives us a chance to work on some highly technical skills,” Ron Boyce, Executive Director of the Marine Academy, said.

The City of Panama City plans to dredge the St. Andrews Marina to restore it to its original depth. Before that happened, they had to survey the site one last time at the request of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Before the city does what it needs to do, which is clean up the marina and dredge it so we can fix it, we gotta make sure that any parts from the governor stone are found because those are historical. And if we can get those up so they are not damaged or lost to time that would be great,” Boyce said.

Officials tell us that no significant artifacts were found, but the dive was still largely a success.

“Anything that we find that we can’t use on the vessel, we’ll definitely hold on to, with the hopes that one day we’ll have a maritime museum in the area, and we can have the broken parts of her in the museum.”

For a full look at the dive mission, check out the video at the top of this page.