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.


  1. Very interesting Barbara and great pics! Makes me wonder how many locals homes have wood from this wreck in them- wood the locals just HAPPENED to discover when they were helping to search for survivors.

    1. You're right. In fact in a follow-up article from the Boston Globe 1927 they show all the people gathering the wood that was scattered across the beach. But a Coast Guard official stopped them after a day of mooncussering!

  2. Hello Barbara, I'm writing this a year later so not sure you will receive it, but I'm very interested to learn more about the shipwreck finds. The Captain of the Montclair was my Great Great Grandfather Captain William McLeod from Parsboro Nova Scotia. If you receive this will you let me know. I'd love to learn more and maybe even take a trip down.

    Gene Canning

  3. Gene again, I guess it would help if I gave you an email to respond to.

    Thanks again,


  4. My uncle George Caines was on that schooner , he was one of the five that was drowned