Shipwreck unearthed at Nauset Beach

By Doug Fraser - Cape Cod Times

Nauset Beach took a pounding last week and lost 10 to 15 feet of sand, but the multiday storm also uncovered a small portion of a wooden shipwreck that hasn't been seen in a long time.

"I've never seen one in that spot," said Orleans Parks and Beaches Superintendent Paul Fulcher, a veteran town employee who said he first noticed the wreck on Monday.

Orleans resident Lisa Scapellati was walking south on the beach Sunday afternoon when she first spotted the wreck and reported it to the Cape Cod National Seashore.

About a half-mile south of the patrolled beach, the spot where the wreck is located is an area that routinely gets washed over during big storms. It's a low spot where the barrier dunes have been flattened by previous storms and the incoming tide and waves frequently wash over the beach and into Pleasant Bay.

The wreck appears to be resting on its side. It's unclear whether more of the ship is buried in the sand or if what's visible is all that remains.

Approximately 50 feet of timbers have been exposed, projecting less than a foot above the sand. Round wooden pins and 6-inch-long square brass rivets fasten thick planks to the ship's ribs.

The construction seems similar to a shipwreck that was found on Newcomb Hollow Beach almost two years ago. That ship was possibly a late 1800s- to early 1900s-era schooner of the type that often plied the coastal waters delivering coal, lumber or other coal goods.

More than 3,500 ships foundered and went down in Cape waters between 1850 and 1980. Most of those wrecks occurred in the late 19th century when an extensive coastal trade carried cargo along the Eastern Seaboard. Experts say it is often hard to identify a ship without seeing the name on quarterboard or finding a nameplate inside the wreck.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has been notified of the shipwreck. Unless the ship has historic value, such as the British warship HMS Somerset, which ran aground off Truro in a storm in 1778, the policy is generally to note the location and a description, then let nature take its course. Still, the park service does not allow people to take any portions of a shipwreck without permission.



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