Did this weekend’s storm surge unhinge chunks of the Jennie M. Carter shipwreck, which has lain for more than a century off the shores of Salisbury Beach?
That’s the question in many minds after huge chunks of a wooden vessel washed up on the sand near the Pavilion over the weekend.
This weekend’s storm may not have dumped feet of snow here as it did in Washington, D.C., but the full moon, the astronomically high tide and a storm-enraged sea pounded the beach, causing considerable erosion. It also exposed a significant portion of remains of the Jennie Carter and perhaps other wrecks buried along the coast.
Sunk as the result of one of the worst storms of the 19th century on April 13, 1894, the broken bones of the 130-foot, three-masted vessel are often visible poking up through the sand at low tide, stretched out with a disjointed keel embedded in the sand.
When the weekend’s storm subsided, Salisbury beachgoers discovered that a large section of a wooden vessel had come ashore, perhaps 150 yards or so from the known wreck site of the Jennie Carter.
According to Salisbury Beach State Reservation operations manager Mike Magnifico, the remnants that washed up were moved to the grounds of the Reservation to await inspection by Victor Mastone, the state’s chief archaeologist.
While the proximity to the wreck site makes it likely that these are part of the Jennie Carter, it isn’t the only wreck off Salisbury Beach. Last year two substantial sections of an unidentified wreck washed up on the beach.
Over the years episodes of erosion have exposed the Jennie Carter’s remains, with portions of her ribs poking out of the sand. The issue this time is if this storm finally broke off a significant section of the 296-ton, three-masted schooner that was built in Newton, Maryland, in 1874.
Loaded with a cargo of stone, the Jennie Carter, her six-man crew and Captain Wesley T. Ober ran into trouble 40 miles southwest off Cape Cod’s Highland Light. Her rudder and foremast gone, the snow-blind crew was tossed for hours through dangerous waters and drifted for days before coming ashore on Salisbury Beach.
When she drifted ashore, rescuers discovered that no one was aboard. Within days, some of the crew’s bodies washed up along the coast.
The vessel was left on the sands off Salisbury Beach, and for years tourists swam out to the wreck, posing for pictures among her remains. But long ago, weather and the sea reduced the Jennie Carter to a low-lying corpse nestled in the sands along the sea bottom.
Long before officials started keeping records, scores of ships and their crews lost their lives off this treacherous coastline. To name just a few others, the schooner Halifax went down with all hands after breaking up on the reefs during a spring gale on April 10, 1852, and on Nov. 28, 1878, the captain of the 31-year-old schooner William Carroll, out of Bangor, Maine, was forced to beach his ship south of the North Breaker during foul weather.
Another nor’easter on Feb. 9, 1896, destroyed the 133-foot, 286-ton schooner Florida, which wrecked so close to the shores of Salisbury Beach the crew’s calls for help could be heard from land.