PEI

X marks the spot: Shipwreck found at P.E.I.'s Lakeside Beach

People often wander the surrounding coastline of Prince Edward Island looking for shells, sea glass or interesting rocks. But occasionally, people discover something more, revealed by the shifting sands.

Shipwreck likely from the 1800s, experts believe

'This summer, after one of the storms, I noticed that there were some odd wooden shapes in the sand,' says Lakeside summer resident Craig Mackie. (John Robertson/CBC)

People often wander the surrounding coastline of Prince Edward Island looking for shells, sea glass or interesting rocks.

But occasionally, people discover something more, revealed by the shifting sands.

"I've been coming to this beach for more than 30 years," said Craig Mackie, who spends much of the summer in the Lakeside Beach area.

"This summer, after one of the storms, I noticed that there were some odd wooden shapes in the sand."

Craig Mackie, a Lakeside summer resident, posted online to find out more about a suspected shipwreck along the shore. (John Robertson/CBC)

Mackie returned to the area known by residents as Lake Run and noticed more of the wooden structure was revealed. It piqued his curiosity and he started reaching out to find out more about what he suspected could be an old boat.

He posted photos and what he knew online and got a big reaction from others curious about what was under the sand.

"I love the way people are connecting to this and they want to know more," Mackie said.

"This place, this province and the people here are very good at keeping their history and telling the stories, and I wanted to know if I could find out what the story of this ship was."

'Magical places'

Enter P.E.I.'s director of Indigenous relations secretariat and archeology Helen Kristmanson. She and staff archeologist Erin Montgomery were out at the site on Thursday morning.

"Shipwrecks are magical places and people get very excited when they find them, and so they should because they're great finds," said Kristmanson.

P.E.I.’s director of archeology Helen Kristmanson (in black), and staff archeologist Erin Montgomery inspect a site with a suspected shipwreck estimated to be from the 1800s. (John Robertson/CBC)

The two began uncovering what they could in the loose sand, looking for edges in the weathered wooden boards. They took measurements and samples, as well as photographs of the find.

A clue to the age of the vessel were tree nails, a type of construction technology.

"These were essentially large nails made out of wood that were put into prepared holes in the ship and when they become engorged with water they swell and create a tight seal. And there are still plenty of tree nails left in this wreck for us to look at," said Kristmanson.

The vessel was found parallel to the shore, prompting Kristmanson to call it a shipwreck instead of a boat that had run aground.

It'll probably disappear again for a while and be rediscovered by somebody in the future.— Helen Kristmanson

She said the chance of finding any artifacts would be small, as often the owner — or others in the area — would clean up any objects they could shortly after the boat came ashore.

Kristmanson said it could be hard to identify vessels like this one.

"They may be here, you know since the mid-1800s. They've been knocked around by the ocean and ice and eroded by sand and wind and there's not that much left of them," Kristmanson said.

"You know it's really just the wood. There's not really metal hardware, there's not usually much or any other sort of clues to its identity."

'We love it when people take pictures and measurements and send us information,' says Kristmanson. (John Robertson/CBC)

The data gathered will be recorded and shared with an expert in Nova Scotia. Archives will be examined to see if the identity of the boat can be uncovered.

Kristmanson encouraged anyone who makes a discovery like the one near Lakeside to report it.

"If you come across one of these shipwrecks, the first thing to do is to contact our office, the provincial archeologist's office with the government of P.E.I.," Kristmanson said.

"We love it when people take pictures and measurements and send us information, maybe [global positioning system] location."

Based on the initial findings, Kristmanson said it was likely the wreck was from the 1800s.

"These shipwrecks turn up every once in a while. You know a storm like Dorian might blow the sands out of here and expose a wreck like this. And it'll probably disappear again for a while and be rediscovered by somebody in the future," Kristmanson said.

More CBC PEI News

With files from John Robertson

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