Pondering Ponce de León

The State of Florida is celebrating its 500th birthday, including debates about the exploration of Juan Ponce de León, who landed on the peninsula on April 2, 1513. St. Augustine is the traditional site of the landing, but historian Douglas Peck believes otherwise.

Peck's route took him from Puerto Rico’s Añasco Bay, south of Grand Bahama Island and toward Miami. His yacht then hit the Gulf Stream, pushing him north to what he determined was the landing site near Melbourne Beach. “Florida historians, they hate me. I’ll say it: Florida historians are pitifully behind on Florida history,” he said.

Historians such as Dr. Sam Turner disagree. “There are a lot of things that absolutely ‘have to be so’ in order for the Melbourne Beach first-landing theory to be right. So I don’t think the Melbourne Beach landing works at all,” Turner said.