The newly discovered wreck likely carried mixed cargo Fishing Industry News

Covered by the sands of time and seas, the shipwreck, recently resurfaced, gives rise to a new interest in its history.

“The wreck of the Essex Bay appears to have been a two-masted schooner, most likely either a fishing vessel or a merchant carrying mixed goods along the coast,” said David Robinson of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR). “It is probable that it ran aground when the Essex River Canal was close to where the wreck is today and for a reason hitherto unknown was abandoned at that location.”

The wreck was buried under the sands as the channel’s course changed over time. As the canal changes course again, and approaches its original course, the wreck is again exposed as sand is eroded by the flow of the river.

“We don’t know the name of this ship yet,” Robinson said.

The newly exposed ship was reportedly discovered in February by driller Steve Hemon. Robinson described the site of the wreck as being at the confluence of the rivers Castle Neck and Essex on the Gloucester side of Essex Bay, and one of only four shipwrecks in the area.

BUAR was informed of the shipwreck after discussion with Capt. Ray Bates, a commercial diver and historian of the shipwreck. Robinson said Essex’s 11th generation shipwright, Harold Burnham, and marine archaeologist and boat builder Graham Mackay were also consulted.

The shipwreck is about 72 feet long and 16 feet wide.

“It’s now visible from stem to stern,” said Robinson. It can only be reached by boat.

Burnham, of Burnham Boat Building & Design, is passionate about wrecks and said the ship probably dates back to the early 19th century. It’s in an area known as “The Spit”.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “What you look at is a corpse and what you learn from it is how it was built and also the culture of the people who built it and operated it.”

Although he worries that this newly discovered wreck will attract many people to the site, Burnham said much can be learned from the wrecks.

“Looking at wrecks for me is really interesting because wrecks contain a lot of information about how ships are built,” he said. “So much of what we know is not only learned by doing that, it’s passed down from shipbuilders of the past. It gives you a chance to see what’s been done.”

The newly exposed shipwreck isn’t the only one on Cape Ann.

Robinson described at least three other notable shipwrecks in the area:

Coffin Beach in Gloucester. The ship was first unveiled and examined by state officials in 2014, and was the subject of a master’s thesis written by Leland Crawford. The 40-foot vessel has been dated to the late 18th or early 19th century.

“He has since been reburied (in sand) and we occasionally receive reports of him reappearing,” said Robinson.

stephill Beach, Familiar to visitors to Castle Hill in Ipswich. The 83-foot by 23-foot vessel is the Ada K. Damon.

“There are still parts visible,” Robinson said. This ship was built in 1875 in Essex and was a two-masted schooner converted into a sand schooner. It ran aground during the Christmas storm of 1909.

Konomo Point In Essex at Walker Creek, a tributary of the River Essex. According to Robinson, the wreck was first reported in 2022 by archaeologist Diana Doucet. This vessel was reportedly 60 feet long.

“Based on the ceramics we saw and the visible construction, it appears to have been built in the mid-19th century,” said Robinson. “We don’t know the identity yet but we will try to find out.

“BUAR has visited all of the sites I’ve described.”

Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or

(marks for translation)watercraft and marine navigation

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