Dig of the Week: Mysterious Mashpee Shipwreck

Photo Credit: Calvin Mires

By Carla Charter

MASHPEE, MA.-A ship wreck is emerging from an inlet shore bank in Mashpee.  Calvin Mires, an  Adjunct Professor of Maritime Archeology at Bridgewater State University and his students are now determined to discover the story behind the yet unnamed wreck.

Mires first learned about the wreck while searching for a field project his students could become involved in.  Vic Mastone, Director and Chief Archeologist for the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Services, forwarded an e-mail to Mires about the Mashpee site.  Mires visited Mashpee and talked to James Rassman, Stewardship Coordinator for Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve who spoke to him about the history of the whole bank as well as shoreline wrecks. “We went to Sage Lot Pond and took a look at the wreck. The fact that it was on shore and nothing was known about it was very intriguing,“ said Mires.

The earliest record of the discovery of this wreck was in the early 1980’s, Mires said, when an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report noted a wreck starting to come out of slowly eroding shore bank.

Mires and his students soon began work on the site. “We measured and estimated the wreck was a 20 to 40-foot vessel.  We recorded the exposed timbers and created a site map. Based on the construction techniques and the wood timbers, we have high confidence that the wreck is from the late 19th or earlier 20th century. We know the coast was solid with no inlet until a storm in the mid-19th century. So, we are probably looking at 1850 or later’” Mires said. The students participated in  8-hour field days on June 4th and 5th and produced a written draft by the end of the week. “We are hoping to continue at the wreck site next year and to have more students involved in the field school, Mires said. ”


“ Part of the mystery is that there are no records we know of regarding the wreck. Now we will have to look into the historical archives and historical photos to solve the mystery.  We will have to search sources for possible shipwrecks on that stretch of land,” Mires said.

“One of the great things about archeology is we get the chance to tell forgotten histories. This is probably not a famous shipwreck. The history is not about the vessel, it is about the people. Someone didn’t make it. Someone didn’t finish their journey. That story gets told not in the books, not in the news but recorded in the land with this artifact,” Mires said. “There are 3500 documented shipwrecks in Massachusetts. There are so many untold stories,” he continued.

Anyone with information about Sage Lot Pond shipwreck can contact Mires at c1Mires@bridge.edu.

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