Seal Cove Day Two

Since the crew will be working for the next six straight days, parpicipants took the day off to explore the park. After an evening of fun and relaxation, the crew was treated to a lobster dinner courtesy of a local fisherman. Tomorrow, we will continue drawing profiles of the frames, this time with the assistance of volunteers from the general public and Acadia National Park staff.

As project historian, I will be visiting the William O. Sawtelle Curatorial Center to study the wealth of their archives. In the evening, Franklin Price will speak at the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. This will provide an excellent opportunity to network with local historians that may wish to share with us. The study of Seal Cove’s history has been a valuable experience, especially in light of the excellent aid offered by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society (MDIHS) and their recent collection efforts. Archives at the MDIHS contain shipping records, personal experiences, newspaper files, and the rich photographic history of the island.

The Heath Mill at the outlet of Seal Cove stream contributed greatly to the community at the cove. Analysis of the lumber operations is being made to place the shipwreck in historical context. Prominent nineteenth-century families include Heath, Reed, Norwood, Hodgdon, and Flye. The first two generations of Heaths played a prominent role in the shipping and shipbuilding activities at the cove. The third William contributed to the community itself by teaching, serving on the Tremont school committee, surveying, and marrying various couples as one of the local justices of the peace.

Another local shipbuilder was Hiram Flye who operated a shipyard on the cove itself. Many local historians are fond of Hiram Flye and his habit of not naming his vessels for people. Ships built by him included the Northern Lights and Light of the East.

The working theory that I have so far is that Seal Cove appears to have reached its apex in the mid to late nineteenth century and faded as more industrialized businesses entered the area, such as the William Underwood Company’s canning operations. This drew the labor of Seal Cove to Bass Harbor.

With the decline of the lumber business by the early twentieth century, Seal Cove faded from economic importance. A Bar Harbor Times article in the May 25, 1961 issue, titled “Seal Cove Once Knew Life of Economic Activities – Faint Traces Remain” found at the MDIHS helped me to establish this scenario. My thanks to writer LaRue Spiker!

— Baylus C. Brooks

Seal Cove Shipwreck Project Underway


Today began phase two of the Seal Cove Shipwreck Project.  Last year, the first phase involved a field school that produced a site plan, recording the vessel from a top-down perspective.  This year, we will record the frames in profile.  The team this year consists of one senior archaeologist, Franklin H. Price of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee, Florida; another graduate of East Carolina University’s Maritime Studies, Steven Dilk of Upstate New York; Crista Shere, a student in Human Ecology and Anthropology at the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine; and a current Maritime Studies graduate student at East Carolina University, Baylus C. Brooks, specializing in maritime history. 


Preliminary work began on July 7, 2012 with Steve taking pictures for a photo mozaic of the site and Franklin and Crista working on profiling frames 1-4.  Baylus visited the Mount Desert Island Historical Society to begin historical research to discover more about the shipwreck if possible, but also to put the site into historical perspective by profiling the Seal Cove community and the economics of this maritime locale. 


Sunday the team will take a break and prepare for a week of shipwreck fun! On Monday, field school participants will be arriving to learn maritime archaeological techniques and help record the wreck.


–Baylus C. Brooks

Seal Cove Shipwreck Project

We will be investigating a shipwreck in Seal Cove, Maine. It is on the western side of Mount Desert Island, on Acadia National Park easement land owned by the town of Tremont. It is in the intertidal zone, and is above water for several hours each day, so no diving is required, but you will get muddy! Volunteers are welcome to help out, and learn archaeological recording techniques, July 9-14. Space is limited. Please contact Rebecca Cole-Will at Acadia National Park for details.

(207) 288-8728