Exploring a Maine Shipwreck That May Date to the Colonial Era

The unexpected secrets of York, Maine

What can we learn from this shipwreck in York, Maine?
What can we learn from this shipwreck in York, Maine?
York Police Department
By Tobias Carroll / April 7, 2020 6:00 am

Science can turn up long-lost vessels in the strangest of places. Last year, for instance, a Viking ship was found buried near a Norwegian church; new information has also come to light about the real-life ship that may have inspired The Goonies. Now, The New York Times has the story of a shipwreck that’s been a constant in the lives of a group of Maine residents for years — and what recent findings can tell them (and us) about its history.

Writing at the Times, Johnny Diaz has the details:

Every few years, the remains of a shipwreck have surfaced on a beach in York, Maine. Its wooden hull, which is about 50 feet long, appeared in 1958 after a storm, and again in 1978, 2007 and 2013, capturing the interest of local residents and visitors to Short Sands Beach. The last time waves exposed its frame was in March 2018.

When the wreck surfaced in 2018, researcher Stefan Claesson took some wood samples from it — and the ensuing analysis revealed a fascinating history for the boat.

Based on his findings, Claesson believes that the shipwreck is of the Defiance, a ship which left Salem, Massachusetts in 1769 bound for England — and which never reached its destination.

The process of researching the ship’s history included a trip to visit the records of the Peabody Essex Museum, where Claesson encountered the narrative of the Defiance, which matched up with his findings.

While evidence suggests that the voyage ended badly for the ship itself, the same cannot be said for its crew. “The ship was a total loss, but the crew survived,” Claesson told the Times. And with his research in hand, the mysteries of this shipwreck are a step closer to being solved.

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