Summer Guide Cape Cod

Summer Guide Cape Cod 2021

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Page 93 of 131 92 Cape Cod's Historical Shipwrecks An Ocean Graveyard By Jessica Bettencourt Eldia aground in 1984 off Nauset Beach in East Orleans Spread across Provincetown to Chatham is 50 miles of water known today as Cape Cod's ocean graveyard, home to more than 5,000 shipwrecks including approximately 1,000 just between Truro and Wellfleet. In the early 1800s, there was an average of two shipwrecks every month during the winter, according to the Na- tional Park Service. They were so common in the early days of settlement that, when a storm arrived, locals would expect to hear the shout: "Ship ashore!" Townspeople would then flock to the beach to attempt a rescue; but more of- ten than not, it was too late as the ship had already become a part of Cape Cod's history. To help sailors who found themselves in a shipwreck, the Massachusetts Humane Society put up huts along the most dangerous sections of the coast as a means for safe shelter. In 1872, the U.S. government furthered this life-saving resource, setting up stations every five miles throughout the beaches of Cape Cod. These stations were manned by surfmen who kept a continuous lookout, with two men at each sta- tion walking the beach on patrol each night. Today, these shipwrecks have become an inte- gral part of Cape Cod's culture and history, with museum exhibits and ancient artifacts paying tribute to the sailors, sea captains and ships that touched the coast of the Cape in an unexpected way. Here's a look at some of the most famous ships resting in Cape Cod's ocean graveyard. The Sparrow-Hawk The first recorded shipwreck off of Cape Cod was the Sparrow-Hawk, which was originally from London and found on Nauset Beach in Or- leans during 1626. Luckily, the entire crew that was aboard survived the wreck, taking shelter in Plymouth Colony. Within weeks, severe storms, heavy wind and shifting sands buried the ship until May 1863, when a storm uncovered the hull. The hull, along with several other compo- nents of the Sparrow-Hawk ship, were salvaged and reconstructed to form a replica, which would then be used for various exhibitions. Today, the Sparrow-Hawk remains an impor- tant piece of history not only for the Cape but for shipbuilding in general. Some of the top na- val architects collaborated on the reconstruction of the ship, which served as a guide to hull de- sign in the early 17th century. Today, the recon- structed hull of the Sparrow Hawk is the prop- erty of the Pilgrim Society and can be found at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis.

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