A Treasure Underneath the Cape's Waters
By: Bayside Realty Consultants
Cape Cod's coastline, also known as the "Ocean Graveyard," has more than 3,000 recorded shipwrecks. Of these shipwrecks, one of the first recorded was the SparrowHawk, which left London in 1626 with 25 passengers and sights set on Jamestown. The small SparrowHawk embarked on a tough, six-week voyage, but sadly never reached its destination in one piece. A storm off Orleans, MA on Cape Cod pushed the boat onto the remote Nauset Beach. Luckily, all passengers were saved from the shipwreck and were brought to Plymouth Colony. Unfortunately, the ship could not withstand the storm and was buried under the shifting sands of Nauset Beach.
SparrowHawk lay beneath sand and marsh mud, but stayed remarkably preserved due to its low oxygen environment. The burial site of the ship was named "Old Ship Harbor" and it took several years for the ship to be completely buried. It wasn't until 1863; nearly 200 years later, that part of the ship was uncovered due to a great storm. There was a great deal of interest in the ship because it was well known as the earliest shipwreck from the start of the New England Colonies. Artifacts and parts from the ship were taken, studied and put back together by a few curious explorers. Eventually, pieces of the ship were transported and reassembled for display in Boston Common.
The SparrowHawk was eventually displayed at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, and is currently on display at the Maritime Museum in Hyannis. The SparrowHawk is the only surviving remains of a 17th century trans-Atlantic vessel, and its remains stand strong after nearly 400 years. There are numerous shipwrecks similar to the SparrowHawk off of the Cape's coast that are explored every year. The SparrowHawk is one small, yet huge part of all the history and charm that Cape Cod has to offer.
This piece of Cape Cod's history reminds us that the past surrounds us everywhere we go. When you live on the Cape, you never know, hundreds of years of history may be right under your toes.
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