Recovered Shipwreck Found In Assateague Surf; Officials Report It’s Discovered ‘On A Regular Basis’

Recovered Shipwreck Found In Assateague Surf; Officials Report It’s Discovered ‘On A Regular Basis’

ASSATEAGUE — Some visitors to Assateague this week were treated to a rare opportunity this week when the remains of an unknown shipwreck were uncovered in the surf in the Over-sand Vehicle (OSV) area.
Hundreds of shipwrecks have been researched and identified over the years off the coast of Assateague as well as the Maryland and Virginia coasts and remains and artifacts are often uncovered at times of changing tides and shifting sands along the migratory barrier island. Many more have been reported in dated newspaper accounts and other documents over a couple of centuries, but have not been discovered or researched.
This week, the remains of an unidentified vessel were revealed in the surf line along Assateague in the OSV area at Mile 18. Assateague officials are uncertain of the age or origin of the heavy timbers that stuck out of the sand in the surf, according to Assateague National Seashore Chief of Interpretation and Education Rachelle Daigneault.
“This shipwreck is one of those that gets uncovered and recovered on a regular basis,” she said. “It is being slowly deconstructed in the surf over time. Though we don’t know its history, it makes for wonderful moments of discovery for visitors exploring the shore.”
Shipwrecks off the coast of Assateague have been documented as early as the late 1600s and as recent has just a few decades ago. In 2002, the Maryland Historical Trust, in cooperation with the Maryland State Historic Preservation Office, completed a comprehensive archaeological overview and assessment of the maritime resources at Assateague Island National Seashore. The National Park Service initiated the study in part to evaluate known shipwrecks located off the ocean side of Assateague Island to determine their eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.
Remains of eight shipwrecks are known within Assateague Island National Seashore and site forms exist for five of them. The study indicated that at least 156 shipwrecks occurred within the boundaries of the National Seashore and another 55 occurred in the vicinity and may be still present due to drifting.
Another 53 are documented in terms too vague to state with certainty if they occurred directly off the coast of Assateague. For example, many of the reports collected during the study, some dating back to the 1700s, simply state the vessels were “lost off the coast of Maryland.”
Some of the references to wrecks off the coast of Assateague are more direct then others, but many are still almost impossible to use for the identification or relocation of the remains. The shipwrecks listed in the study included only those which were total losses, or suffered significant damage. The study is quick to point out because of the active nature of the migratory shoreline as well as the effects of waves, tides and currents, many of the remains of shipwrecks discovered in and around Assateague may have occurred in other areas of the mid-Atlantic and drifted into the study area.
The first on the list was the British ship “Princess Ann,” which foundered and completely broke up on Assateague’s beach in 1698. The very last entry is the American merchant ship “Nancy Jane,” which foundered off the coast of Chincoteague in 1968. In the nearly 300 years in between, the study attempts to document hundreds of vessels of all shapes and sizes that wrecked off the coast of Assateague, the remains of some of which have been identified and documented, while others have not.