John Stanford

Wreck discovery

By Ted Hayes

Divers discover the wreck of the long-lost bark Trajan, sunk outside Newport Harbor in 1867.

To the untrained eye, the scene that greeted John Stanford and Mark Munro 30 feet beneath Newport Harbor Saturday, Dec. 6, wouldn’t have looked like much: A massive pile of concretion and timbers covered in algae, seaweed, barnacles and anemones that rose up eight feet off the bottom and faded off into the murky distance. 

But for the two hardcore wreck divers and maritime historians, the modest scene was paydirt: They’d found the long-lost Trajan, a 125-foot bark loaded with lime that sank August 17, 1867.

The Trajan, one of thousands of ships that have gone down in Rhode Island waters since the days of the colonists, had been all but forgotten in the 141 years since she was lost.

The men’s discovery that chilly December morning was the culmination of years of research, hard work and more than a bit of luck.