The Ada K. Damon, April 2020Shipwrecks

Wreck of the Ada K. Damon

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. Photo from the Trustees of Reservations archives. 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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Ada K. Damon immediately after wrecking on Crane Beach. Charles Wendell Townsend.
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The Ada K. Damon in the 1920’s
The Ada K. Damon, photo from the Trustees of Reservations archives.

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.

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. 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. Ada K. Damon in the 1960's.

Ada K. Damon in the 1960’s. Photo courtesy Jean Feugill‎

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

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

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.

The Ada K. Damon in 2013. Photo by Gordon Harris
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The Ada K. Damon in 2013
Photo by Bruce Lord
2014 photo by Bruce Lord
Photo by Bruce Lord
Photo by Bruce Lord
Glenn Harris took this photo at Steep Hill Beach on July 16, 2015. Buried again, this was almost all of the ship that was visible.

The Ada K. Damon emerges again in 2016

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Photo by John McGrath, July 2016
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2013 photo by  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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 Photo by Irene Richard Van Schyndel
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 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
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Ada K. Damon, Ipswich
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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 iron slag and stone ballast at either end. The Ada K. Damon was high and dry at low tide, April 2020. Photo by Gordon Harris
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Photo of the Ada K. Damon by Fabiano Lacerda Santos, August 2020
Photo of the Ada K. Damon
Photo of the Ada K. Damon by Fabiano Lacerda Santos, August 2020

September 2020: The Ada K. Damon breaks up during a coastal storm and is scattered across the beach

September 2020. Photo courtesy Trustees of Reservations
The remnants of the Ada K. Damon were scattered along the shore, September 2020
September 2020; photo courtesy of Plum Island & Beyond
The anchor chain from the Ada K. Damon, photo courtesy of Plum Island & Beyond
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The remnants of the Ada K. Damon, January 2021

Read the report and plan by the Trustees of Reservations