Shipwreck unearthed on Stone Harbor beach
STONE HARBOR — Partially covered in sand, part of a roughly 25-foot wooden ship lies unearthed on the southern portion of the borough’s beach.
Where it came from is not completely clear, but there’s a history of shipwrecks around the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood, which sits a short distance from where the remains were found on Stone Harbor Point. A lifesaving station was built close by due to frequent groundings there.
Now, curious visitors are trekking to the recently discovered wreck before it is covered once again — and speculating it could be a ship that sank near the inlet in the late 1800s.
In 1886, a vessel sank about a mile and a half north of the inlet after catching fire, said Steve Murray, former chairman of the Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse. Seven lifesaving station employees rescued the five-person crew of the sinking schooner D.H. Ingraham, which was bound for Richmond, Virginia, with a cargo of lime. They later received medals of honor from Congress, three of which remain inside the lighthouse to this day.
“There’s a very good possibility that it’s the Ingraham,” said Murray, who tallied 60 shipwrecks at the Hereford Inlet from the late 1700s to the turn of the 20th century in a book he wrote. “It’s exciting to be able to touch it after talking about it for so long.”
“It adds up pretty well,” said Stan Sperlak, of Middle Township, as he was getting ready to walk to the wreck. “But unless you have a name on the boat on the timbers, it’s always just an educated guess.”
Finding the wreck takes time and effort. It’s located roughly a mile south of 122nd Street at the southern end of the island.
It’s not the only wreck, both large and small, between Stone Harbor Point and North Wildwood. The Army Corps of Engineers in 2004 discovered a 227-foot iron-hulled steamship from the Civil War era around that area.
Shipwrecks there became less common as sails were replaced with combustion engines around World War I, said Jim Talone, president of the Stone Harbor Museum.
“The threat of a nor’easter catching a boat and blowing it to shore went away,” Talone said.
Photos and video of the Stone Harbor boat have been making the rounds on social media for the past few days.
That’s how Pam Lyons, who grew up in Stone Harbor, learned about the remains.
She and her family set out down the beach during low tide in search of the wreck and found what Lyons said looked like half of the bow of a ship with wood pegs instead of nails.
“I visited the point a lot as a kid and looked for shells. ... It wasn’t visible then,” said Lyons, of Cherry Hill. “But who knows what could have washed up?”
The Jersey Shore is home to hundreds of shipwrecks and buried artifacts. Nor’easters and storms can shift the sand and unveil the remains.
In 1901, the Sindia, a four-masted cargo vessel, ran aground on the Ocean City beach on the final leg of a trip from Japan to New York City. Artifacts from the shipwreck — the ship’s name plate and pottery — are on display in the local historical museum.
So-called ”ghost tracks” were uncovered along the sand in southern Cape May County in March, drawing hordes of visitors to the hard-to-find location on Higbee Beach in Lower Township. The tracks were owned by the Atlantic City Railroad Co. and leased to the Cape May Sand Co. more than 100 years ago.
Talone said he’s unsure of the wreck’s history but pointed to a photo in the borough’s museum of a boat washed up on the beach in the 1950s about the same size as the one that was uncovered recently.
In the coming weeks, Talone said he plans to take an expert to the site to try to date the wreck.
Murray said he hopes visitors respect the slice of local history. Pieces of it were gone by Wednesday afternoon.
“I just hope the souvenir people don’t go down there and rip it apart,” he said.