The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane Society of Newburyport constructed shelters at Sandy Point for shipwreck victims, and massive timbers can still be seen protruding from its dunes. Several ships that made safe passage between Sandy Point and Crane Beach went ashore at Steep Hill Beach, where the remains of two schooners can still be observed.
The text below is shared from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License:
Ipswich Bar, as Sandy Point has been called historically, has a long history of tragedy. The swift currents and shallow waters are dangerous at any time of year, but they are fatal most often in winter and in a storm. Sailing vessels were driven aground on the bar and although in full sight of land only 1/4 mile or less away the victims could not reach it except through the chilled waters and breaking surf, and if they did reach it, found themselves far from assistance. The main cause of death is hypothermia or drowning following on hypothermia, which ensues in only a few minutes in the winter waters of Massachusetts, chilled by the Labrador current.
Records of the loss of small boats began in the 18th century. They went aground on the beach or bar in winter. The boat’s complement attempting to reach shore died in the surf or on the beach. As those buried in the sand did not stay buried a cemetery was established for them on Bar Island.
Among the disasters of greater magnitude is the wreck of the Falconer, a 360-ton brig from Belfast captained by Joseph Rolerson, of the same city. She was transporting 350 tons of coal from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to Boston when she encountered the northeaster of December 15, 1847. The ship carried 53 passengers and crew, and the wreck resulted in 17 deaths. After a funeral procession winding through town they were buried in Ipswich, except for the captain and his family, who were shipped back to Belfast.
On December 3, 1849, the Nancy with a cargo of bricks went aground on Plum Island. The crew of five were lost.
On December 24, 1850, the Argus with a cargo of worked stone foundered on Emerson Rocks. The captain and some of the crew were lost. Two were trailed through the snow to a thicket, where they were found dead.
The list continues: the Ornament, the Teazer, the Votary and in 1883 the City Point, a sidewheeler, on Emerson rocks.
In 1802 and in 1852 the Merrimack Humane Society of Newburyport constructed shelters for cast-away mariners at Sandy Point. Only scattered stones remain. The dunes at the south end of Plum Island are strewn with massive ship timbers, some protruding from the sand at odd angles, causing visitors to speculate concerning their origin.
Hurricanes and winter storms-Our friend Bill Sargent reminded me that Massachusetts has the highest probability of all of the states to be hit by an ocean storm, when you include hurricanes and nor’easters. Here are a few stories…
The ”October Gale” of 1841-A strong hurricane stayed offshore of the Carolinas in early October, 1841 As it continued moving north, it pulled cold air into its circulation and intensified as an extra-tropical storm, with a direct hit on New England on October 3. The Georges Bank fishing fleet was destroyed with the loss of 81 fishermen’s lives. The storm wrecked at least 190 vessels … Continue reading The ”October Gale” of 1841
The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar-Featured image: Map from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane Society of Newburyport constructed shelters at Sandy … Continue reading The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar
The Ipswich lighthouse-In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth of the Ipswich River along with a lightkeeper’s residence. The lighthouses were aligned such that they would provide guidance into the river’s mouth. The westernmost tower soon was updated with a revolving light. The first keeper of the Ipswich Light was … Continue reading The Ipswich lighthouse
The Spectre Ship of Salem-Cotton Mather related the tale of a doomed ship called “Noah’s Dove” which left Salem during the late 17th century for England. Among the passengers were “a young man and a passing beautiful girl pale and sorrowful, whom no one knew and who held communion with no one.” Many people in Salem supposed them to be demons … Continue reading The Spectre Ship of Salem
Wrecks of the sand schooners-These are photos of two-masted sand schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island. Featured image: Wreckage on Steep Hill Beach believed to be the Ada K. Damon is frequently exposed by the changing tide and sands. Photo by Bruce Lord. Sand schooners delivered sand from local beaches to Boston … Continue reading Wrecks of the sand schooners
Wreck of the Ada K. Damon-Ada K. Damon shipwreck photo from “Ipswich” by Bill Varrell Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years and is known by sailors on the Atlantic Coast as one of the most fateful days in the history of these waters. The “Great Christmas Snowstorm” struck the North Atlantic States hard as far south as Maryland. … Continue reading Wreck of the Ada K. Damon