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Hurricane Sandy Exposes Fire Island Shipwreck

The four-masted schooner ran aground in heavy fog nearly a century ago

The presumed remains of the Bessie White, a wrecked schooner long buried under Fire Island's dunes, now lay fully exposed following Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS)

By Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer

A wrecked schooner long buried on Fire Island - a barrier island off of Long Island, N.Y. - now lays fully exposed following Hurricane Sandy's attack on the beach.

The weathered hull of the shipwreck lies about 4 miles east of Davis Park, between Skunk Hollow and Whalehouse Point, in the Fire Island National Seashore, as first reported by Newsday.

The remains are thought to be the Bessie White, more than 90 years old, said Paula Valentine, public affairs specialist for the park. Historic photographs and news accounts don't agree on the year of ship's grounding, but here is an outline of its story:

The ship, a four-mast Canadian schooner, went aground in heavy fog about a mile west of Smith's Point, Long Island, in either 1919 or 1922. The men escaped in two boats. One capsized in the surf, injuring one crew member, but everyone (including the ship's cat) made it to shore safely. But the crew couldn't save the three-year-old ship or its tons of coal. The ship was salvaged in the following weeks.

The bus-size ship's skeleton has poked up through the sand before, such as after a nor'easter in 2006, exposing long boards and metal pegs, Valentine told OurAmazingPlanet.

The dune that used to bury the wreck eroded back an average of 72 feet, said U.S. Geological Survey coastal geologist Cheryl Hapke, who is studying the changes on Fire Island.

Archaeologists and park officials are documenting the shipwreck before the sea reburies it with sand, Valentine said.

"There's so little of it left we may not be not be able to determine which ship it actually is, but we may be able to learn more about its age," she said. "It's just a rare treat to see something exposed."

Fire Island is a barrier island, a natural system that takes the brunt of the damage during powerful hurricanes and winter storms. The entire island was submerged following Hurricane Sandy. In all, 80 percent of homes were flooded and seawater breached the island in four places.

Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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I think it's pretty cool that the storm has shown us the remains of the ship. This is a piece of maritime history once lost and will soon be lost again. That's all that's good about this story......

November 16 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Look like a scene from Planet of the Ape

November 16 2012 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

it was a category one hurricane not a super storm.

November 16 2012 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welcome possum

just like so many people anymore. i do what i want where i want and let others pay for my choices. get off islands brain deads

November 16 2012 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to welcome possum's comment

those islands have been inhabited for centuries...how and where should the peopel go? are you going to buy their properties??? what natural disaster lurk in your neck of the woods?

November 16 2012 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And people live on barrier islands WHY? Their purpose, in nature, is to be the buffer for big wind and rain events. Fire Island is only 3' above sea level. It is as stupid as living in a flood plain. Neither should be able to get flood insurance and certainly NOT from the U.S. Government i.e. the tax payers who are smart enough to live in more safe places.

November 16 2012 at 8:45 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Bruce's comment

Sandy storm reveals 100 year old scooner on beach

November 16 2012 at 8:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pjleahynovi's comment
Monistat 7

Yes I read the article

November 16 2012 at 9:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ibrahim Tasiu


November 16 2012 at 7:37 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Ibrahim Tasiu


November 16 2012 at 7:35 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert R Hemp Jr

Did you see ?

November 16 2012 at 7:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert R Hemp Jr

Did you see?

November 16 2012 at 7:12 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
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