A Wreck Has Been Wrecked

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Last fall I had the opportunity to work with students and faculty in Outdoor Pursuits in a unique way. Ranbel Sun, Stephanie Cormier, and Miriam Villanueva learned that I knew about a terrestrial ship wreck that the students could visit and asked me to join them on their planned outing to Crane Beach, where the wreck has rested for over 100 years.

Outdoor Pursuits visiting the Ada K. Damon in 2019

The shipwreck that we visited was of the Ada K. Damon in Ipswich, MA. It is a great place to bring students to learn more about maritime archaeology since it is accessible at low tide. Salem State University and partner SEAMAHP have also done field schools at the site.

The Ada K. Damon was a schooner built in 1875 by H.A. Burnham Boat Building (still in operation today!). By 1909, the owner was Captain A.K. Brewster who had sold his property and used the proceeds, along with all his savings, to invest in the ship.

It a bout of terrible luck, it was during her first voyage for Brewster that the Ada K. Damon was wrecked. She was caught in what locals called the “Great Christmas Snowstorm.” That storm was also responsible for destroying many other ships on Cape Ann.

Since 1909, she has sat on the sands of Crane Beach at the base of Steep Hill and become quite a tourist attraction for visitors.

Sadly, due to the strong surf that resulted from Hurricane Teddy, the Ada K. Damon has been broken up and strewed across the beach. 

Both Dave Robinson, the current state underwater archaeologist for Massachusetts, and his predecessor Vic Mastone will survey the damage.

While I hope that the damage isn’t too extensive and that I will be able to bring future students back to this shipwreck, it does serve as an example about the fragility of archaeological sites.

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