Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Historical Treasures Uncovered by Nature - Cape Cod #2

Since the 1600s to present, the Cape coastline has been the graveyard for over 3500 shipwrecks.  In March of 1927, the Montclair broke apart in a spring storm on the sandy shoals of the treacherous coast of Cape Cod.  Some of the skeletal remains from this wooden three masted schooner appeared last week in the sands of Nauset Beach - Orleans.

Tim and I read about it in our local paper and couldn't resist our curious natures, so we ventured out across the sands in search of the infamous Montclair. We came across the relic after walking only a short distance on the beach.

The curved timbers of one of its sides almost looks like it wants to bury itself again into the sand and I'm sure it undoubtedly will. Sightings of its ribs were recorded back in 1957 and 2010.

 This image of the wreckage from Shipwrecks around Cape Cod by local Orleans author William Quinn shows only part of the schooner.

 Here's another picture from the Boston Globe March 5 1927. It came ashore in pieces.

 These wooden pegs show the craftsmanship of the ship builders and the strength of the schooner.  It sailed out of Nova Scotia and was bound for New York. The cargo hold contained over 2,000,000 wooden slats or laths for future building throughout New England.

The author Henry Beston was living on the coast of Eastham in 1927. He saw the wreck from the deck of his “Fo’castle,” a 20×16 shack in the dunes.  Later, he walked across the beach to see it up close. Then chronicled what he saw in Chapter 6 of his famous Outermost House.

“There has just been a great wreck, the fifth this winter and the worst. On Monday morning last, shortly after five o’clock, the big three-masted schooner Montclair stranded at Orleans and went to pieces in an hour, drowning five of her crew.”

One final passage from Henry Beston:

“A week after the wreck, a man walking the Orleans shore came to a lonely place, and there he saw ahead of him a hand thrust up out of the great sands. Beneath he found the buried body of one of the Montclair’s crew.”

Hopefully I'll never come across a dead body.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Historical Treasures Uncovered by Nature-Cape Cod

Nauset Beach in Orleans and Nauset Light Beach in Eastham have always held secrets of how Cape Codders once lived.  After a Nor'easter, a hard rain or just a blustery wind, unique artifacts will appear.

A few years ago, Tim and I went for a winter walk on Nauset Beach in Orleans. The sun felt warm but the wind blew 10' cooler across our bare faces. There had been a big storm the prior weekend, perfect for finding treasure.  We saw a dark object up ahead on the sand and thought it was a dead seal but as we got closer, we discovered it was a rubber boot.

This was not just any ordinary boot but one from over 100 years ago. Its sole and heel were made of wood (a dead giveaway that's it's old) with a rubber label that read: "Goodyear - patent pending 1890". You could see teeth marks from a shark or some other nasty fish all across the upper portion of the boot. Tim was brave enough to put his hand inside to the bottom of it. Thankfully there were no skeletal human bones down inside. Later I researched Goodyear.  Charles Goodyear discovered a process to vulcanize rubber in 1839 and sold the rights to it for various manufacturers throughout the next 40 years. The Goodyear Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio that we know today never made rubber boots. They started in 1898 making tires and inner tubes using the Goodyear patent.
So according to my calculations, these rubber boots were made before 1898 and bears the name of Goodyear.  In fact, there are actual bills of sales from stores ordering Charles Goodyear rubber boots in Connecticut as far back as 1868.

We brought the boot home and hung it on our treasure wall. It's still comparatively flexible and reminds us that there's always something out there waiting to be found.

Even though I have dug in this little garden by our driveway for years, I found this gun after a particularly heavy rain storm.  Its handle was exposed enough for me to spot it as I got into our car. Frightened at first, I soon realized that it was only a toy.

This 1940 or 1950s child's toy was probably left and forgotten outside as the children, who lived in the house, played a game of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers.  In my novel, I placed a similar toy gun in the remains of an old root cellar that my contemporary character finds in her  backyard. Not only does she find the gun but gold coins, a skull and evidence that links her property to an old Cape Cod legend - Maria Hallett and the infamous pirate Sam Bellamy.

I'm always scanning the beach and horizon for interesting finds or maybe someday... treasure.