A shipwreck fragment has been discovered near Low Beach, along Nantucket's eastern shoreline, giving the island yet another tantalizing maritime mystery to unravel.
The large fragment of timber - including iron fastenings - was exposed on the beach just weeks after another shipwreck was discovered along Nantucket's south shore.
Nothing definitive is yet known regarding the origin of the fragment, but the reporting process has already begun. The Egan Maritime Institute's director of education and public programs, Evan Schwanfelder, trooped out to Low Beach to inspect the new shipwreck fragment on Tuesday, but was unable to locate it.
It's unclear if the fragment was buried again, or moved with the tide. But Schwanfelder sent the initial photos of the fragment taken by Nantucket Current, along with some information about its location, to the state Board of Underwater Archeological Resources (BUAR) for further analysis.
“The assumption is that it’s a lower, middle-section of a hull of a mid-19th century schooner,” Schwanfelder said after communicating with Dave Robinson, the head archeologist with BUAR. “Mid- to late-19th century schooners were the tractor trailer trucks of their day. They’re all wood and they’d break-up. Salvagers would take them apart or they’d be burned. This frame fragment appears to be attached to a keel fragment with part of the outer hull.”
The Egan Maritime Institute is urging resident not to disturb the fragment if they come upon it on the beach.
Following the discovery of the wreck along the south shore in December and the latest fragment found on Low Beach, Schwanfelder said Egan Maritime is looking to implement a local version of a shipwreck tagging and archeological management program - known in other states as STAMP - to help tag and study the movement of shipwreck components.
“It’s about finding a process to report these and catalog them as quickly as we can,” Schwanfelder said. “It’s a large scale citizen science project, and we may try to recreate this for Nantucket, collaborating with BUAR.”
Finds like the one discovered off Low Beach “can pop-up and disappear, so time is of the essence. We want to find a way to document them and report them. They’re little pieces of history, and a lot of them leave questions about the true story behind them. If each piece reveal even a little picture, that could lead to understanding a bigger story.”