Seal Cove shipwreck mystery probed

Volunteers measure parts of the vessel. from left to right, Franklin H. Price, Tony Menzietti, Charles Bowdoin

By Craig Idlebrook - Working Waterfront

Some of the best mysteries begin as open secrets.

Seal Cove residents have long known about the skeletal remains of a wooden schooner, even if national park officials don’t disclose its location officially. The hull of the ship is like a tidal phantom, only appearing at the water’s lowest ebb for a brief time before disappearing back into the ocean. Little else has been known about the ship.

But this summer, a Florida-based archeologist, an intern and a group of volunteers have teamed up to find out more about the ship’s past. For a week in August, the team slogged through the tidal mud to measure and draw what’s left of the ship.

The effort was led by Franklin H. Price, senior archeologist for the Florida Bureau of Archeological Research. Price grew up on Mount Desert Island and spent several years as a lobsterman before going to graduate school to study archeology; he undertook the project during his summer vacation time.

For Price, it was more than the geography that made him feel like he was coming full circle with this project. He too was once an eager volunteer helping out with an archeology project, excavating a Roman graveyard in Valencia, Spain. Price said he was pleased to give others the same thrill of discovery.

“It went very well,” Price said. “People seemed to have a lot of fun.”

Volunteers included some Acadia park staff and members of Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit group. Muriel Davisson, a genetics professor at Jackson Laboratory and a coordinator for the Tremont Historical Society, said she enjoyed herself immensely. Originally scheduled to volunteer for one day, Davisson took time off work to come back for another.

She served as an artist, sketching the contours of the hull on waterproof material. Having once volunteered for an Mount Desert Island archeological land dig, Davisson said the thrill of discovery far outweighed the discomfort of working in the muck.

“There’s something about history [and] being part of a team that’s trying to find out something about history,” Davisson said.

The project was a collaboration between Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Education and Research Center and the Institute of Maritime History, with funding provided by the Submerged Resource Center of the National Park Service and a grant from L.L. Bean, according to Rebecca Cole-Will, Acadia Park Cultural Resources Program Manager.

Acadia officials liked the idea of teaming Price with volunteers to help establish a local corps of budding archeologists to help out on future discoveries, said Cole-Will.

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