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Storm provides a rare glimpse of a 112-year-old shipwreck

Vicious winter storms have pummeled much of the US in recent days, bringing bitter cold and hazardous conditions. In Maine, where record-breaking storm surges have caused severe flooding, the weather also brought a rare glimpse of a 112-year-old shipwreck at Acadia National Park.

The two-masted schooner Tay ran aground on Mount Desert Island in July 1911, resulting in the death of the ship’s cook. The Tay, captained by I.W. Scott of Saint John, New Brunswick, sprung a leak during a storm, according to an article that appeared shortly after the wreck in the Bar Harbor Record. Captain Scott tried unsuccessfully to make it to harbor.

“The main sheet parted and then he lost his main boom. Capt. Scott attempted to stand off shore under head sails, but he was too far in and was swept inside the breakers,” the article recounts. “The Tay struck hard and was dismasted fore and aft at the first shock and began to go to pieces rapidly.”

Some Acadia National Park visitors were able to see a large section of the ship’s impressive bones on Mount Desert Island’s Sand Beach after a storm on January 10 brought the wreck to the surface.

Bar Harbor local Molly Moon, whose family’s ties to the area date back generations, went to the beach at low tide on Thursday, a day after the storm, to take photos of the wreckage at sunset.

“It was a rare experience, to peek back at history that has been buried just below our noses for over a hundred years,” Moon told CNN Travel in an email. “I was reminded how blessed I am to live in this beautiful area and relate to the rich history here.”

On Thursday, the shipwreck Tay was drawing visitors to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. - Molly Moon
On Thursday, the shipwreck Tay was drawing visitors to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. - Molly Moon

Moon is not the first person in her family to see the wreckage emerge.

“My grandmother saw sections of it uncovered in the ’50s, my mother saw the hull unearthed in the ‘70s, and I was fortunate enough to see it return above the sand presently in 2024.”

With more bad weather over the weekend, the sea seems to have reclaimed some of the wreckage.

Ben Sprague, of Bangor, took his family to look at the ship’s remains on Monday after hearing about it from social media and news reports. When he visited, the visible wreckage was in pieces.

“They are not really connected together, but they are still in pretty solid condition. Cool bit of history!” Sprague, who didn’t know about the shipwreck before it surfaced last week, wrote to CNN Travel.

“It’s pretty amazing to think of all the times you’ve been to Sand Beach and walked on the sand above that shipwreck without even realizing it,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.

Acadia National Park did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for more information. The park, which was established several years after the shipwreck, is mostly located on Mount Desert Island, the largest island off Maine’s coast. According to a notice on the park’s website, there was “significant damage” throughout the park from the January 10 storm.

Park areas remained open, except where noted in the NPS advisory, with visitors taking in the shipwreck’s appearance.

According to the 1911 Bar Harbor Record article, there were six crew members aboard the Tay, as well as the captain and the captain’s son. The cook, J.B. Whelpley, of Saint John, New Brunswick, died in the wreck. According to the Bar Harbor Record, the ship was carrying lumber from Saint John to Boston. A load of shingles was lost but planks carried below deck washed ashore.

A National Park Service account says the Tay’s crew took refuge in the local Satterlee family’s summer home after they managed to get ashore. The family built a boat house using the salvaged lumber to honor the shipwreck.

While the ship’s wreckage has revealed itself before, the recent sighting was the first in decades, according to Bangor Daily News.

The century-old wreck isn’t the only historic site in the state impacted by recent storms. Flooding in South Portland swept away several historic fishing shacks.

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