Since a wrecked ship arrived in the remote Canadian coastal area of Cape Ray, on the island of Newfoundland, at the end of January, it has caused commotion in the small community of about 250 inhabitants.
Residents have posed for photos with parts of the wooden boat, which a local hunter spotted and is believed to date back to the XIX century.
They have encouraged authorities to secure the structure.
And they have speculated on social networks about its mysterious origin.
The posts, on a community Facebook page, caught the attention of a local photographer, Corey Purchase, who lives 15 minutes from the area.
According to experts, the ship is probably from the 19th century and was most likely washed ashore by Hurricane Fiona on the Canadian coast. (Corey Purchase via The New York Times)
He used a drone to take aerial photos which showed the scale of the vessel, which he estimated to be about 27.5 meters long.
“The drone put it into perspective,” he said.
“It was a pretty amazing find.”
Shipwrecks in this region are not that uncommon.
There has probably been miles on the Newfoundland coast over the past 500 years, said Jamie Brake, the provincial archaeologist.
“The history of maritime traffic is very long,” explains Brake.
“Cape Ray is an exposed and treacherous coast, with fog and reefs. There is now a lighthouse to protect boaters, but it wasn't always there.”
Still, experts say it's rare for such a large ship to wash ashore at Cape Ray Cove, near the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
According to Neil Burgess, president of the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland & Labrador, the ship may have been swept away by Hurricane Fiona, a Category 4 storm that destroyed about a hundred homes on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, since Port aux Basques east to Burgeo, in September 2022.
Burgess plans to inspect the ship this weekend to better understand its origins.
Just by seeing the images captured by Purchase and others, one suspects that it could be from the 19th century due to some construction details.
For example, it is held in place by large rails, dry-compressed wooden pegs, and copper pegs, common on ships of the time.
According to Burgess, a dozen shipwrecks have been recorded in the Cape Ray area in the last three centuries.
During a boat inspection, you hope to determine the type of wood used and its age.
That way, there will be a better chance of identifying the wreck.
Such a discovery would be a “victoria local“, he claimed.
“People have stories in their family of shipwrecks that have occurred 100 or 150 years ago,” Burgess said.
“It's always a bit of a mystery to name shipwrecks that wash up on the beach.”
If nothing is done to manage the wreck, it may be washed back into the ocean or pushed further toward the coast, he said.
The final destination of the ship depends on the Provincial Archeology Office.
Brake said the office had not yet made a decision on next steps.
He said they would study the poll this weekend with an “open mind.”
In the past, the government has buried wrecks in the sand so they can be preserved if anyone wants dig them up and investigate them later.
However, some Cape Ray residents have posted on the community Facebook page that they hope the wreck can be used as tourist attraction.
They feared the sunken ship, which appeared to be in 1 to 2 meters of water along the coast, was drifting again and called this week for help to secure it.
Shawn Bath and Trevor Croft of the Clean Harbors Initiative, an organization primarily made up of volunteer divers who help clean up debris after storms, volunteered.
They used ropes and straps to hold the boat and prevent it from drifting, Croft explained in an interview.
They even recorded it underwater, so that there would be a record of the ship in case it was swept away in a storm.
Speaking of the mysterious ship, Croft said:
“It's something that probably hasn't been seen in 100 or 200 years. It's very exciting to see it for the first time.”
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