NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary shipwreck Lamartine listed on National Register of Historic Places

May 17, 2012

Lamartine shipwreck

The carefully chiseled groove around the basin head’s manhole allowed the manhole cover to fit flush with the slab’s surface.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC-UConn)

The wreck of the Lamartine, a 19th century schooner that hauled granite for construction of streets, sidewalks and buildings along the U.S. East Coast, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The wrecklies within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts Bay.

Built in Camden, Maine, the 79-foot, two-masted cargo schooner was launched in 1848 and enjoyed a 45-year career along the Eastern Seaboard. The Lamartine is considered by historians as a representative vessel of New England’s granite trade from that era.

While hauling granite sewer heads from Stonington, Maine, to New York City on May 17, 1893, the Lamartine encountered a storm off Cape Ann, Mass. Heavy seas caused the schooner’s cargo to shift, capsizing the vessel.

One crewmember drowned as the schooner settled beneath the waves, and the captain and mate were tossed into the ocean. Luckily, a fishing schooner returning to Gloucester, Mass., saw the Lamartine sink, and rescued them.

Lamartine’s cargo of cut granite reveals fascinating details about how granite quarried in New England met the demands of a nation growing increasingly urban,” said Craig MacDonald, superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “The shipwreck is a physical link to earlier generations who moved the stone and whose hands chiseled the granite blocks that built our great American cities.”

Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) documented the shipwreck with the university’s remotely operated vehicle during several research missions between 2004 and 2006. The fieldwork recorded the vessel’s features, including portions of its wooden hull, rigging and granite cargo. This information allowed sanctuary maritime archaeologists, with help from a local maritime historian, to identify the shipwreck and connect it with New England’s cultural landscape that is dotted with granite quarries on coastal headlands and islands.

NOAA and NURTEC scientists have collaboratively located and documented more than three dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary using side scan sonar and an advanced suite of remotely operated and self-guided underwater vehicles. The Lamartine is the sanctuary’s sixth shipwreck site to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

The Lamartine’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable to shipwrecks in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing or injuring any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks or other submerged archaeological sites. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its biological diversity and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale watching destination and supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes and marine invertebrates. The sanctuary’s position astride the historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts’ oldest ports also make it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation.

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