A mysterious shipwreck appeared last month on the shores of Cape Ray, a small community on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Now, locals are hoping the 100-foot-long vessel can be saved before currents pull it back into the ocean’s depths.
“This is something that probably hasn’t been seen for 100 to 200 years,” Trevor Croft, a volunteer diver with Clean Harbors Initiative who helped survey the ship, tells the New York Times’ Rebecca Carballo. “It’s pretty exciting when you get to see that for the first time.”
Gordon Blackmore, a 21-year-old Cape Ray resident, was hunting seabirds on January 20 when he noticed a dark shadow in the shallow waters. He hurried home to report the news.
“It’s amazing; there is no other word for it,” his mother, Wanda Blackmore, tells Sarah Smellie of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). “I’m just curious if they can name the ship, and how old it is and if there were any souls lost on her.”
The shipwreck caused a stir in the small community and attracted curious onlookers. They immediately took to Cape Ray’s Facebook page to speculate about the ship’s history and its mysterious arrival. They worried it would disappear again or be further damaged by the rough climate.
The wreck also drew local photographer Corey Purchase, who took aerial photos and videos of the site. “The drone put it into perspective for sure,” he tells the Times. “It was a pretty amazing find.”
Earlier this month, archaeologists and volunteers entered the cold, shallow waters to recover samples from the ship for analysis.
“We’re hoping to identify the wood species and age of the wood and to identify the make-up of the metal,” said provincial archaeologist Jamie Brake during a news conference last week, per Agence France-Press. “Those things will give us clues as to its age and origin.”
Archaeologists think the vessel may date to the 19th century. Neil Burgess, president of the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, tells the CBC that Hurricane Fiona could have initially dredged up the wreck in 2022. More recently, ocean swells may have finished the job.
Shipwrecks are common in this region, which has “such a long history of ship traffic,” Brake tells the Times. “Cape Ray, it’s an exposed, treacherous shoreline, with fog and reefs.”
Some locals are wondering whether the ship could have played a role in their own family histories. According to BBC News’ Nadine Yousif and Eloise Alanna, 90 percent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians descend from those who immigrated to the British Isles between the 17th and 19th centuries.
“People have stories in their family of shipwrecks that have happened 100 or 150 years ago,” Burgess tells the Times.
So far, however, experts say they haven’t found evidence that this particular wreck is “historically significant,” per the CBC’s Elizabeth Whitten. Resources are limited, and expensive recovery efforts may not be feasible.
“We can’t preserve every shipwreck,” Brake tells the broadcaster. “In many cases, what’s possible is documenting what’s there before it’s gone.”
Now, locals are raising money to save the ship themselves. A GoFundMe page, which went up last week, has received over $7,000 Canadian dollars (roughly $5,000 U.S. dollars) so far.
“We believe this shipwreck drifted into Cape Ray for a reason, and we want to help tell its story,” organizers write. “It would be greatly appreciated if everyone could come together to help us recover, transport and preserve this unique piece of history.”