King Tides Reveal Shipwreck From Age of Sail in Ipswich

Historic wreck
Courtesy of The Trustees

Published Mar 13, 2024 9:44 PM by The Maritime Executive


A large and previously-unseen hull section from the lost schooner Ada K. Damon has appeared on Crane Beach, the long private shoreline of the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts. 

"The rising tide lifts all boats, or at least that’s how the old saying goes," wrote the site's nonprofit administrator, The Trustees, in a social media announcement. "In the case of the Ada K. Damon, it’s quite the opposite, as we saw the effects of the highest King Tide we’ve seen in a long time this past weekend."

High waters and strong winds appear to have washed away the sand over the hull section, exposing it for archaeologists and beachgoers to examine. 

Ada K. Damon was a wooden-hulled schooner built in 1875. Late in life, she was sold and repurposed for use in hauling sand from Plum Island, just to the north of Crane Beach. During her first voyage in this trade, she was caught in the severe "Great Christmas Snowstorm" of 1909, which wrecked multiple ships up and down the New England coastline. She dragged anchor and was stranded on the beach, where she was immovably trapped. 

The ship's frame has disappeared into the sand and reappeared again over the years, washed by time and tide. In 2020, it broke up in a storm, and the pieces were scattered up and down the beach. The recently-unearthed section, however, has not been seen since at least the 1920s. 

“Portions of the ship that had been buried for 100 years now were visible, so there was an opportunity there to learn from the site things that we hadn’t known before,” state underwater archaeology board director David Robinson told Boston.com.

The Crane Estate is a unique institution - a private reserve the size of a state park with miles of prime beachfront. Multiple vessels wrecked on its shores during the Age of Sail, including the Ada K. Damon, the Edward S. Elveth, the brig Falconer and the schooner Lucy M. Collins, according to Historic Ipswich.