For a tantalizing few hours, on a minus tide around the time of November’s new moon, the sandbars off Head of the Meadow Beach opened up to reveal a rusty secret. Maybe only a few seagulls were in on it.
Then Nancy Bloom came along.
A photographer, Bloom often looks to the water for subjects to shoot.
On this bright fall afternoon, as she and her husband were pulling into the Head of the Meadow parking lot, her gaze went straight to the metal hulk that was jutting out of the shallows — a ragged heap of iron, slimy with seaweed, 25 feet wide and about 20 feet from shore.
“I’ve been going to that beach for over 20 years and have never seen anything like it before,” said Bloom.
The ruin was the wreck of the Frances, a German ship that ran aground on the Truro shore 140 years ago.
On her way to Boston from the Far East, laden with tin and sugar, the 199-foot, three-masted bark sailed into a winter storm as she was rounding the Cape and sank on Dec. 27, 1872.
Her crew was rescued by the men from the newly established Highland Life-Saving Station. Salvagers removed as much of the cargo as they could and left the vessel to rot in the sand.
In the century and a half since then, the iron-hulled Frances has surfaced from time to time, exposed by a dead low tide or the scouring of a storm. Winds and tides cooperated in the wreck’s November unveiling.
“It was a [new] moon that night, it was a minus tide, and we had just had the two storms — Sandy and the nor’easter after that,” said Bloom, who discovered the shipwreck on Nov. 12, a clear day with hardly a ripple of a breeze to trouble the waters around it.
She photographed it that Monday and returned to the site on Tuesday, only to find the view of the wreck impaired by rain and wind.