land of danger, a place where unlucky travelers shipwrecked
and disappeared forever. Sailing ships were no match for
random gale-force storms with surging waves, and to travel
tKe ocean·s suSerKigKwa\ а tKe *ulf 6tream а was to roll
the dice and face a chance of dying on the reefs.
7Ke risN of drowning was Yer\ real but maNing it to sKore
could be much worse. Stone Age natives, whose palmthatched
towns and villages lined the coast, were said to
be bloodthirsty barbarians. According to a Spanish colonial
goYernor·s reSort in tKe ,ndians sacriÀced sKiSwrecN
victims and used their severed heads in pagan ceremonies.
By 1696, when the Reformation wrecked, a series of Spanish
governors had tempered the brutality of native inhabitants.
Scavenging tribes like the Ais, Santaluces, Jeagas and Jobeses
on tKe 7reasure &oast craYed tKe 6Saniard·s tobacco wKicK
was inÀnitel\ suSerior to weeds tKe\ found in tKe woods.
7o feed tKeir smoNing Kabit natiYes traded ambergris and
information about shipwrecks in their territory.
Castaways of Spanish descent had decent odds of living to
reach St. Augustine, a skeletal outpost that barely sustained a
comSan\ of KardlucN soldiers. %ut tKe natiYes did not aͿord
the privileges of survival to Englishmen, whose terrifying
buccaneers had preyed on Spanish treasure ships for decades.
For English-speaking travelers, South Florida’s primitive
coast was still widely held to be a land of cannibals with a
taste for (nglisK flesK.
$ montK before reacKing tKe 7reasure &oast tKe Reformation
set sail from 3ort 5o\al -amaica а tKe Sirate caSital
of the Caribbean. It was an especially dangerous time to be
at sea and not Must because of Kurricane season. 7Ke :ar
of tKe *rand $lliance raging in (uroSe Kad sSread to tKe
New World, where the Sun King of France turned his navy
loose to wreak havoc on rival empires. With only a minimal
Nnowledge of 6SanisK 7reasure &oast ,ndians could not KaYe
understood tKe arcana of world Solitics. 7Ke\ didn·t Nnow
that the latest war had temporarily turned Englishmen and
Spaniards into unlikely allies.
It was a late September storm that ravished the Reformation
and tossed it into tKe reefÀlled sKallows oͿ -uSiter ,sland. %elow
deck in the midnight darkness, two dozen passengers and
crew felt the schooner strike bottom and bust its timbers. Water
rusKed in and soon eYer\one was floating inside tKe boat.
Dickinson’s baby must have been crying in his wife Mary’s
arms, and surely panic gripped the young couple and their
ten slaves. But the Journal does not capture their anguish. All
we know from Dickinson’s account is that heavy waves kept
crashing overhead, and the boat ran fast aground. Fifteen
unbearable minutes Sassed witKout tKe air SocNet Àlling witK
water and tKen someone Ànall\ lit a candle.
Amid the rocking and crunching that came with each
volley of waves, they debated what to do. Dickinson, the >>
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
This barkentine is similar to what the Reformation would have looked like.
According to Jonathan Dickinson’s journal, the ship wrecked off of today’s Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge on the northern tip of Jupiter island.