IPSWICH (CBS)– Uncovering our seafaring past on an Ipswich beach. That’s what a group of students is doing this week– digging, exploring and looking for answers. Digging out a shipwreck, that is. It may be a ship that sank back in 1909.

With shovels and bare hands, students from Salem State University along with other volunteers are on Steep Hill Beach in Ipswich, uncovering the wreck of what could be the Ada K. Damon, a schooner that went down 106 years ago.

“This site has not really been documented archaeologically,” says Vic Mastone, the state’s underwater archaeologist. “Right now we have the baseline set up to help the students with a reference point to tie into the frame of the ship, the ribs of the ship. That’s what we’re going to try and uncover on the (port) side,” he says.

Students uncover shipwreck on an Ipswich beach. (WBZ-TV)

Students uncover shipwreck on an Ipswich beach. (WBZ-TV)

The Damon was a fishing ship and sand hauler. She was one of the workhorses of maritime New England. The students are trying to determine if this outline is really the Damon.

“If we can expose more of the wreck, we can take more measurements and therefore we can match it to the Ada K. Damon and actually verify the ship,” says Catie Murphy, a Salem State student.

“There’s something about digging in the sand and trying to find relics of a time most history has forgotten,” adds Tom DeRosier, another student.

That means measuring and learning secrets from the skeleton of a once proud vessel.

“Massachusetts is a maritime state and our heritage is important, and our connection to the past helps us move forward,” says Mastone.

These “Citizen Scientists” are working hard, putting up with downpours today, and adjusting their schedules to the tides. The answers won’t come quickly, but this research will contribute to our understanding of New England’s rich seafaring past.

The week long field school is run by the Seafaring Education and Maritime Archaeological Heritage Programs.

For more information, visit Essex Shipbuilding Museum and Crane Estate, Ipswich.

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