Thousands of Shipwrecks Likely Off the Massachusetts Coast
According to the Cape Cod National Seashore, over 1,000 shipwrecks are spread between our local waters to Provincetown.
Luxury liners, pirate sloops, merchant ships, tugs, pleasure craft and a plethora of others presently lie on the sea floor. Most of the estimated three million shipwrecks worldwide will never be found, but because of modern day underwater remote technology, searching for shipwrecks is easier with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remote operated vehicles (ROVs).
Just last week, a major discovery happened when, battling sea ice and unimaginable cold temperatures, a team of explorers and researchers found Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship that sank in the Antarctic in 1915. After 107 years, the Endurance is exceptionally intact at 10,000 feet underwater.
It's a good time to remind our local citizens that the Schooner Ernestina-Morrisey, the official vessel of the Commonwealth that is docked in New Bedford part of the year, also sailed within 600 miles of the North Pole and is the last of six remaining Essex-built schooners. More notable, it was the last ship to bring immigrants to this area from the Cape Verde islands.
Locally, the entrance to Buzzards Bay is cluttered with untold numbers of shipwrecks. In December of 1908, the USS Yankee ran aground five miles from what is now the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier; fortunately, there was no loss of life. The Neponset was rammed and sunk in December of 1927 just north of Penikese Island. The Col. William B. Cowin struck Westport's Hens and Chickens reef and sank at the southern tip of Gooseberry Island.
Seven crew members were killed in 1944 when a Navy sweeper collided with the USS Richard Suessens off of Mishaum Point in Dartmouth. The Vineyard Lightship sunk about a mile east of Buzzards Bay Light in a hurricane, with the entire crew of 12 lost.
You can discover a lot of fascinating stories of our local waters, including two of the most notorious shipwrecks nearby: the HMCS St. Francis, which in 1945 collided in fog while under tow, and the Angela, a cement barge that broke its towline in a storm and grounded on a reef off Westport, according to the Westport Fisherman's Association and the Westport Cultural Council, which have documented particulars about those and other local shipwrecks.
There are a boatload of shipwrecks around here waiting for you to discover, and that's not including real ghost ships that have emerged from the sea – but we'll cover that another time.