The Ada K. Damon, April 2020Shipwrecks

Wreck of the Ada K. Damon

Ada K. Damon shipwreck photo from “Ipswich” by Bill Varrell.

Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years and is known by sailors on the Atlantic Coast as one of the most fateful days in the history of these waters. The “Great Christmas Snowstorm” struck the North Atlantic States hard as far south as Maryland. Philadelphia had 21 inches in 23 hours. The storm did its greatest damage in New England, where winds gusted to 72 mph in Rhode Island. The gale assumed terrific force on Christmas night and continued well into the following day. The list of shipwrecks and deaths was said to be as long as the Coast itself.

The First Annual Crane Beach picnic was held at the site of the wrecked Ada K.Damon

The First Annual Crane Beach picnic was held at the site of the wrecked Ada K. Damon

Capt. A. K. Brewster had sold his farm in York, Maine and invested everything in the sand schooner Ada K. Damon. The Ada K. Damon was a two-mast schooner built in 1875 at H. A. Burnham Boat Building in Essex, Massachusetts. She was 84 ft long and had a beam of 23.3 ft and a depth of 8.2 ft.

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The Ada K. Damon in the 1920’s

The ship was wrecked during his first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island. On the 26th of December, 1909, she stranded 3.5 miles south southwest of the Plum Island Coast Guard station. The gale swept down from the northeast thick with snow, the anchors dragged and parted, and the ship wrecked on Crane beach at high tide. The Plum Island station crew visited the wreck on December 27th and found her full of water with the sea breaking heavily over her. Fortunately the ship crew were safely on shore. Captain Brewster declined assistance, not ready to admit defeat.

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The same view of the Ada K. Damon in February 2020. Photo by Sandy Tilton

Ada K. Damon shipwreck

The Ada K. Damon, April 4, 2020. Photo taken from a trail above the beach. Little Neck is in the background.

Google map shows the Ada K. Damon. Zoom out to see its location.

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Ada K. Damon immediately after wrecking on Crane Beach. Photo from “Sand Dunes and Salt Marsh” by Charles Wendell Townsend.

On December 28th, Capt. Brewster again declined assistance and told the station crew that he was going to sell the vessel to wreckers. On Jan. 2, he informed the lighthouse keeper that he could find no one to buy the wreck. On the following day the life-saving crew arrived to assist him in stripping the ship, and the vessel was a total loss. The unfortunate elderly captain returned to Maine penniless, seeking farm employment.

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Ada K. Damon

The Ada K.Damon with Steep Hill in the background. Photo 2020 by Sandy Tilton.

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Ada K. Damon one year after wrecking on Crane Beach. Photo by Charles Wendell Townsend.

The marooned ship became an instant attraction, but less than a year later she was buried to the deck. After a year only upper sections of the frame were visible. The ship had not moved since it is well-anchored in the sand, and in the skeleton of the ship can often be seen offshore at very low tides. The sands of Crane Beach are slowly moving toward the mainland.

Photo by Bill Sargent, 2004, of the ship frame, which emerged from the sand after being buried for a century.

Photo by Bill Sargent, 2004, of the ship frame, which emerged from the sand after being buried for a century.

It has been determined by measurements that the wreck that emerged in 2004 is the Ada K. Damon. It bears a resemblance to an older ship skeleton that Charles Wendell Townsend photographed in Sand Dunes and Salt Marsh, and the then-recent wreck of the Ada K. Damon. The stern or bow of another ship, possibly the Edward S. Evelyth, lies nearby at the water’s edge, covered with green moss. Once at very low tide, I was able to wade into the water and observe the faint outline of a ship’s skeleton.

This was not the first tragedy to occur with the Ada K. Damon. The Plum Island Life Saving Station recorded the following for March 29 – April 9, 1893:

“The sunset patrol having discovered the body of one of the crew of the schooner Ada K. Damon on the beach, keeper had the beach patrolled and two days later another body was found. The patrol north from sunset to 8 o’clock, finding two bodies on the beach, took them up clear of the water and covered them over until morning. Early on the following day, while going for them with a team, found a third body on the beach and brought all three to the station, from which place they were taken to Provincetown for burial. The remains were those of three of the crew of the fishing schooner Ada K. Damon, who, while fishing in their dories, were separated from their vessel by a heavy snowstorm and drowned by the capsizing of their boats.”

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The Ada K. Damon, 2013. Photo by Gordon Harris

Photo by Bruce Lord

2014 photo by Bruce Lord

Photo by Bruce Lord

2014 photo by Bruce Lord

Glenn Harris took this photo at Steep Hill Beach on July 16, 2014

Glenn Harris took this photo at Steep Hill Beach on July 16, 2014. Buried again, this was almost all of the ship that was visible.

The Ada K. Damon emerges again, 2016

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Photo by John McGrath, July 2016

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The Ada K Damon was becoming visible again, August 2016. Photo by Irene Richard Van Schyndel

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The Ada K Damon, August 2016. Photo by Irene Richard Van Schyndel

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The Ada K Damon, August 2016. Photo by Irene Richard Van Schyndel

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The Ada K Damon, August 2016. Photo by Irene Richard Van Schyndel

Ada K. Damon, March 18, 2020

Ada K. Damon, March 18, 2020 (photo by Gordon Harris)

Ada K. Damon, March 18, 2020

Ada K. Damon, March 18, 2020. Photo by Gordon Harris

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The Ada K. Damon with Little Neck in the background. Photo by Sandy Tilton, March 2020

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The Ada K. Damon and Little Neck, April 2020. Photo by Maureen Smith

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The Ada K. Damon is more exposed than ever in April, 2020. Photo by Maureen Smith

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The Ada K. Damon, April 12, 2020. Photo by Gordon Harris

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The Ada K. Damon sitting on Steep Hill beach at low tide, April 12, 2020. Photo by Gordon Harris

Ada K. Damon

In April, 2020 the ribs of the Ada K. Damon were more exposed than ever, as well as what appeared to be a couple of blocks of mixed steel slag and stone ballast at either end.

Ada K. Damon, Ipswich

The Ada K. Damon was high and dry at low tide, April 2020. Photo by Gordon Harris

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The Ada K. Damon at high tide, April 2020

Further Reading:

Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MA Wrecks of the schooners - These are photos of two and three-masted schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island.
Wreck of the Watch and Wait Wreck of the Watch and Wait, August 24, 1635 - Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named "Watch and Wait." As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds.
Wreck of the Lucy M. Collins, August 19, 1891 - When you’re walking on Crane Beach near Steep Hill  Coal, you might be surprised to see lumps of coal lying on the sand. This would be quite a mystery were it not for the tragic history of brigs and schooners transporting coal in the 19th century. Wreck of the Lucy […]
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr, To bear him company.
Tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich from the wreck of the Falconer in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Falconer, December 17, 1847 - On December 17, 1847 the brig Falconer, loaded with bituminous coal, wrecked at Crane Beach during a fierce winter storm. A dozen of the crew and passengers are buried in a common grave at the Old North Burying Ground.
Wreck of the Edward S. Eveleth, October 1922 - In October 1922, the sand schooner Edward S. Eveleth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years. The skeleton of the hull is just off-shore a short distance from the wreck of the Ada K. Damon.
Wreck of the Deposit in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839 - Dec. 23, 1839 two days before Christmas a storm caught the schooner "Deposit" on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Capt. Cotterall was lost, and several of the crew were buried at the Old South Cemetery.
The Ada K. Damon, April 2020 Wreck of the Ada K. Damon - Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years. The ship was wrecked during the captain's first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island.
The Spectre Ship of Salem - On the fourth day after the ship left port, the sun came out and in the distance could be seen the same ship sailing effortlessly back into port directly into the wind. As the Noah’s Dove approached, its passengers including the young couple were visible but ghost-like.
The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar - The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. The hull of the Ada K. Damon sits on Steep Hill Beach.
Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse The Ipswich lighthouse - In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel - In August 1635, the 240-ton Angel Gabriel sank in Pemaquid Bay after sailing into the most intense hurricane in New England history. Among the survivors were members of the Cogswell, Burnham and Andrews families, who settled in an area of Ipswich known as Chebacco.
Pigeon Cove The ”October Gale” of 1841 - In the latter part of September, 1841, was a long, unbroken spell of uncomfortable weather, which culminated in a violent and cold storm of wind, snow and rain on the night of October 2, continuing four days.
Hurricane Carol Union Street Ipswich MA Hurricanes and winter storms - Featured image: Union Street in Ipswich after Hurricane Carol. Our friend Bill Sargent reminded me that Massachusetts has the highest probability of all of the states to be hit by an ocean storm, when you include hurricanes and nor’easters.  Here are a few stories…
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.