Today's Nantucket

Shipwreck Uncovered on Nantucket Island

Following the discovery of a shipwreck on Nantucket’s South Shore on Friday, December 2, Egan Maritime Institute is working closely with the Town of Nantucket, expert scientists and historians to determine the age and plan for what appears to be a discovery of a late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century shipwreck.

As a first step, Egan Maritime is in communication with the Mass Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, and they will be helping them to determine the best next steps. At the moment, we are asking visitors to the site to be respectful and not disturb the wreck in any way.

“Moving forward, we are committed to working with the proper officials to determine the best next steps,” said Evan Schwanfelder, Director of Education at Egan Maritime. “Ideally we would like to take a sample of the wood to carbon date it so that we are able to get a better idea of the age of the wood and start researching the  window of time for when it was built.”

“It is not unusual for wrecks to surface” after storms but nothing of this size has been seen on Nantucket in many years,” added Schwanfelder.

 On Nantucket Island, erosion is typically the reason that shipwrecks surface out of the sand.  Ships that wrecked around Nantucket were usually victims of New England’s powerful winter storms. As a consequence, it is rare that a good-sized hull, like this one, would remain intact after the wreck. Almost all the shipwrecks around Nantucket Island were fishing boats or coastal schooners carrying mail, timber, coal, or live pigs.

“As an organization, we are excited by the possibility of uncovering the truth behind this wreck,” said Carlisle Jensen, Executive Director of Egan Maritime. “Our museum staff estimated that there are about 750 recorded shipwrecks off the coast of Nantucket alone. Within our collection and through other island historical organizations, we have access to primary source records on many of the shipwrecks and hope to start researching the wreck soon.”

“This is an incredible opportunity for Egan Maritime Institute to combine the work we do at the museum with our Sea of Opportunities maritime education classes. We look forward to diving into historical records to learn more about this ship and the individuals who may have lost their lives at sea. We hope to turn the site into an outdoor classroom and allow our students to join us every step of the way as we work to discover the story of what happened,” added Jensen.

“Stay tuned as we continue to uncover the mystery of this wreck,” said Jensen. For more information about the shipwreck or to learn more about Egan Maritime, call 508-228-2505.

Founded in 1989 by island native Albert F. “Bud” Egan, Jr. and his wife Dorothy H. Egan, Egan Maritime Institute’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the island’s seafaring heritage. At our origin, the organization venerated and exhibited the Egan family’s extensive maritime art and artifacts collection. Throughout the past three decades, they have invigorated our mission, expanded their offerings, and made a profound impact on the coastal Nantucket community.  To learn more visit:

Photo by Becky Alvarez taken December 4, 2022

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