FOUND: A Pre-Civil War Shipwreck on a Massachusetts Beach - Atlas Obscura
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FOUND: A Pre-Civil War Shipwreck on a Massachusetts Beach


The timbers of a shipwreck were found on Nantasket Beach. (Screenshot via CBS Boston)

In Hull, Massachusetts, a small coastal town south of Boston, a recent storm washed away enough sand on the shore to reveal a line of thick, dark brown wooden timbers, poking up out of the sand like a row of rotting teeth—a shipwreck that experts say dates back before the Civil War.

Only a portion of the boat has emerged from the sand, but it may be about 28 feet wide and as long as 100 feet—about a third the length of a football field, but larger than many one bedroom apartments in New York. 

The Massachusetts coast was a dangerous place for early shipping—off one stretch of Cape Cod, there have been more than 1,000 wrecks. But they’re also extremely well researched: in Hull, one sea captain attempted to document every 19th century wreck on this particular beach. 

So it’s surprising that there’s anything left to find here—this is “the first new wreck that’s been found on this coast for a long, long time,” Peter Wild, the executive director of the Hull Lifesaving Museum told a local CBS news crew.

Update: The ship, says Victor T. Mastone, the chief archaeologist of Massachusetts’ Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, is most likely a 2 or 3 masted schooner. “These were the bus, box trucks and 18 wheel tractor trailers of the nineteenth century and earlier,” he says. “It is how people and cargo moved, even during the steam train age.” According to Mastone, this is what most shipwrecks look like, but the opportunity to visit one is a rare experience. “View, photograph it, even touch it,” he says. Just don’t remove any of it. 

Every morning, we highlight one newly found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com