Erosion on Nantucket's Shoreline Reveals Remains of Old Ship

A ship believed to have wrecked in the late 19th or early 20th century was found along the south shore of Nantucket

NBC Universal, Inc.

Erosion along the shoreline of Nantucket has revealed an incredible discovery: the remains of a ship. Now, scientists are trying to identify the vessel and when it wrecked.

Along Nantucket's south shore, ominously nicknamed "Graveyard of the Atlantic," the boat is thought to have been there for more than 100 years.

"Oh man, I was excited!" said Nantucket resident Matt Palka.

His Saturday morning bike ride turned into a major find of what appears to be a late 19th- or early 20th-century shipwreck.

"It gives you goosebumps when you're standing in it, because it's like, you have to think, 100, 200 years ago … people were using this," Palka said.

It's not unusual for a wreck to be revealed along Nantucket's coast, but what's astonishing scientists and residents alike is the size of the ship's remains, likely used to haul cargo.

"It's a bit bigger than your typical fishing dory, so we're assuming that it's some sort of schooner," said Carlisle Barron Jensen, executive director of the Egan Maritime Institute.

The institute is a museum for the island's nautical history. It's working with local officials, scientists and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources to determine where the ship came from. That includes sampling the wood to figure out how old it is. The island has kept extensive record of shipwrecks, according to Barron Jensen.

As they work to uncover the mystery of how this ship met its end, they hope it can inspire and educate a new generation.

"We're able to not only research the vessel, but bring students out to the field, visit the site, and really dive in and learn more," said Barron Jensen. "It's a live, living learning classroom for our students."

Palka, who works in landscape construction, just appreciates the workmanship of what he saw.

"There's nothing machined about it. It was a guy, he put it together, that's unreal, it's crazy," he said.

Investigators are asking people to stay away from the wreck so it can be preserved. Eventually, it will be removed from the shoreline. There's no timeline on how long that will take.

Contact Us