Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Old photo helps shipwreck puzzle

March 28, 2006

RYE - The schooner Lizzie Carr capsized in the Atlantic in 1905. It wasn’t until 93 years later that a tourist found the buried hull of the vessel beneath the sands of Wallis Sands State Beach.
What remained of the hull was moved into the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point, and now a photograph of the shipwrecked vessel has surfaced that adds more information on the fate of the schooner.

A photograph of the bow of the schooner was brought to the center recently by Richard Bailey of Gonic. Bailey found the image in a group of glass plate negatives that he purchased through eBay. The envelope that contained it was labeled "Wreck of the Lizzie Carr."

David Switzer, the consulting nautical archaeologist for New Hampshire and the director of the archaeological project that recovered the section of hull structure on display in the center’s Shipwreck! exhibit, was contacted. He had never seen the photograph before.

According to Switzer, the location of the wreck appeared correct based on shoreline features, but when he first examined the picture in company with other photographs taken at the scene, the bow didn’t seem to fit.

"Later, when I re-examined one of the known photographs of the wreckage, the newly discovered photo of the bow suddenly made sense," he said. "I realized that, by the time the Bailey photograph had been taken, most of the wreckage had been cleared from the beach, leaving only the bow as a reminder of the incident."

The importance of this photograph is that it adds information hitherto unavailable through archaeology and is the only known photograph of the Lizzie Carr taken in Thomaston, Maine. Included in the section of bow is the forecastle deck where a capstan had probably been located (dark circular stain) and later salvaged.

Stretching to the right is the starboard anchor chain, which probably was ripped out of the hawse pipe when the anchor caught hold in the attempt to stop the schooner’s progress toward the beach. The windlass can also be seen.

Switzer also said the new photograph may help to solve yet another mystery.

"In the photo of Lizzie taken at Thomaston (the rightmost photo on the Shipwreck! exhibit panel), you can see a white spot on the transom above the rudder," he said. "It might be a cameo carved into the transom; however, computer enlargements are not clear enough to confirm that the spot might be the representation of a woman’s head and shoulders."

Reinvigorated by this new find, Switzer has contacted the Maine Maritime Museum to secure a negative that can be enlarged. Although such ornamentation was not uncommon on Maine-built vessels, knowing what that spot is will solve another Lizzie mystery.

"Serendipity played a huge role in identifying the wreck in back in 2002," said Switzer. Now it seems that serendipity has struck again!

"Richard Bailey’s eBay adventure has added yet another piece to this archaeological puzzle," he said.


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