It’s been quite the controversy for Florida historians and navigational experts. Although legend has it that Ponce De Leon landed in St. Augustine, some people actually believe that he first landed right here in the area of Melbourne Beach. In last year’s 500th anniversary of the landing, the controversy surpassed a local controversy and became one discussed throughout the United States.
For many years, school kids throughout the USA have been taught that Juan Ponce De Leon, who once sailed with Christopher Columbus, set sail in 1513 from Puerto Rico to find the Fountain of Youth. Textbooks claimed that he landed in St. Augustine, Florida and claimed the land on behalf of Spain.
However, many historians actually dispute the landing area and believe he came ashore at either Ponce Inlet or Melbourne Beach and most believe that Melbourne Beach is actually the right location.
In an effort to collect more data and to possibly settle the dispute, Douglas Peck a sailor and self-proclaimed “alternative historian”, decided to recreate De Leon’s famous journey. In 1990, on a cutter called the “Gooney Bird”, Peck set sail from Puerto Rico, and using a copied set of what is believed to be De Leon’s navigational logs, and also using modern navigational equipment, he retraced Ponce De Leon’s steps only to find that he landed in Melbourne Beach. Although Peck believes he can’t be 100% certain that he landed in the exact same spot as De Leon, he believes he got it within an eight mile range.
Part of the problem with being confident about De Leon’s landing spot is that De Leon’s navigational logs have either never been saved for posterity or they have never been found. Instead of the original logs, many historians believe that a 1601 transcription is most likely a close copy of the original notes. This transcription is what Captain Peck used on his 1990 journey.
Samuel Lopez is now taking the next step and wants to show the world that Ponce De Leon did, in fact, land on Melbourne Beach and not St. Augustine. He is teaming up with a production company to create a documentary titled “Don Juan Ponce de León: The True Discovery of Florida.” He is using Captain Peck’s notes regarding his recreation journey as well as the navigational transcriptions used by Ponce De Leon and his crew to not only recreate the journey again, but to document it in a way that will change recorded history.
Already on board is Captain Peck’s son, Doug and John J. Brown Ayes, a descendent of Ponce De Leon. Lopez is currently raising money, not only for the production costs associated with the documentary, but also the costs associated with the voyage itself, including the cost of a vessel.
Although many historians believe the journey and documentary will be good to help us understand how De Leon and his crew got here, it may not solve the controversy. A few have stated that the transcribed notes are not detailed enough or complete enough to allow us to follow the exact same path with 100% certainty.