MYSTERY WRECK YIELDS A FEW CLUES (August 24/01)

“We have more clues but (it still) remains an interesting mystery,” Dan Conlin, curator of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic says of the wreck found in Wolfville harbour.

Mr. Conlin was commenting on the recent archaeological survey of the site that I discussed in last week’s column. As mentioned in the column, the wreck was discovered about a year ago by Sherman Bleakney who alerted the Museum. A preliminary survey of the wreck was conducted last September by Conlin, Bleakney and Leon Barron.

While Conlin noted that while “about half the length of the wreck” is buried in mud, a “special frame structure,” which is normally found in the centre of vessels, determined its size to be about 60 to 70 feet long. Conlin said this probably means the wreck was a vessel around 100 gross tons in size. “Further results will have to wait several months for the detailed wreck site drawings to be completed,” Conlin said.

The marine archaeologists who worked on the wreck took wood samples, Conlin said. The samples should reveal if the ship was built of wood obtained locally and perhaps add one more clue in the effort to identify the vessel.

I mentioned in last week’s column that a ceramic shard had been found at the wreck site that was of 18th-century origin, intimating this was a possible clue to the vessel’s age. Mr. Conlin tells me that this ceramic was first produced in the 1850s but it is “not 100 percent clear that it is from the wreck.” David Christianson, an archaeologist with the Nova Scotia Museum who participated in the wreck survey, said it was difficult to confirm that the shard was associated with the vessel since it was “a surface find and not in an intact soil layer.”

The recent archaeological survey yielded a number of clues that may eventually lead to identifying the wreck. However, Conlin notes that while “we know its size and its construction indicates a mid to late 1800s (origin)” more historical background is required to compare to the archaeological record.

Hopefully, some of that background will come from people who have heard stories about the wreck and may know where it came from. The Kings Historical Society has collected a bit of oral history that includes an account from a woman who remembers seeing the wreck in the late 1930s, but more information would be helpful. Readers who know anything about the wreck are urged to contact the Historical Society or me. Anything you have, family lore, an old tale passed down from a grandparent, will help to fill out the story of the Wolfville harbour wreck.

There’s the possibility that researchers will be taking another look at the Wolfville harbour wreck and it’s important that it be left undisturbed. Under the Special Places Act it is illegal to remove objects from a historic shipwreck without a permit. If you’re curious about the wreck, an excellent place to view it is at low tide from Wolfville’s new wharf complex.

 

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