What started as a search for the details behind an old family photograph has blossomed into an exhibit on 400 years of shipwrecks around the island.
Fort Stark State Historical Site Director Carol White and Assistant Director Joan Hammond have been working on the project for 2½ years.
White said the two history buffs began researching shipwrecks in the area because of a photograph passed down through the family of Andy White, Carol's husband.
The black-and-white picture shows the Camilla May Page, a four-masted schooner, wrecked on a rock ledge near Fort Stark on Nov. 18, 1928. White said some of the town's older residents may remember rushing out with burlap sacks and picking up pieces of coal that washed out of the wrecked ship.
That is just one of the stories highlighted at the new shipwreck exhibit that will be unveiled at the historical site on Wild Rose Lane from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 28.
White and Hammond scoured old newspaper articles, keeper's logs and wreck reports at the Portsmouth Athenaeum and the public library, and the National Archives in Waltham, Mass., while conducting their research.
White said they found out early on that no one had ever looked closely at the history of New Castle shipwrecks.
"This was a whole new line of research, which became exciting," she said.
They found that more than 100 shipwrecks occurred around the island since the 1600s. Not all of those were dramatic, ship-sinking wrecks, however. Similar to reports on car accidents today, White said, even minor shipwrecks required the filing of reports.
Eight of the more dramatic wrecks are highlighted on displays inside the Fort Stark visitor's center.
Most of them occurred around Jerry's Point, the peninsula on the southeast corner of the island where Fort Stark is located.