What is the ship buried under this southern Jersey Shore beach?
STONE HARBOR — This winter's rough sea has helped uncover a rare piece of history to the Jersey Shore: an old wooden ship.
The frame of the ship, buried under the sand at Cape May County's Stone Harbor Point, was exposed in December. It has attracted the attention of many curious about its origins, including Stockton University marine archaeologist Stephen Nagiewicz.
Another winter storm could churn up the sand and cover it again at anytime, so Nagiewicz and his team are racing against the clock to try and figure out which of roughly 4,000-8,000 ship wrecks known about along the Jersey Shore this ship might be. There also is ongoing erosion of the wreck thanks to waves crashing over the remains.
Nagiewicz said that the white oak timber used and the wreck's remaining 'sturdy construction' suggest it could have been built in New England or Canada. He also said there is some evidence of copper sheathing which was used to protect the ship’s hull from damage from wood-boring animals and worms.
"It could be a jolly boat from a sailing ship, a whaling boat, a lifeboat from one of the nearby lifesaving stations or a piece of a much larger vessel like the D.H. Ingraham,” Nagiewicz said. The D. H. Ingraham was a schooner headed to Richmond, Virginia from Rockland, Maine that ran aground in 1886 during a Nor'easter.
This Stone Harbor shipwreck is just one New Jersey project that Stockton University’s Marine Field Station is currently studying. Nagiewicz and his students also are using sonar to map Revolutionary War shipwrecks in the Mullica River, tied to the Battle of Chestnut Neck, and nominating them to the National Parks Register of Historic Places.