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

Wooden pegs and Volunteers

Only late yesterday did we discover any definite fasteners on top of the keel. Attached is a close-up of a wooden peg, or treenail, in the center at the top of the keel. We only found two of them, both at the northern end of the vessel. Perhaps they attached a stem or sternpost.

More Investigations in Seal Cove

It has been a flurry of activity in Seal Cove. We mapped the entire wreck with the exception of a timber that we will record tomorrow. We had volunteers lending a hand all week. As many as nine at a time. It has been a success as an outreach project, with several people having their first experience in maritime archaeology on the wreck. Volunteers learned trilateration, baseline offsets, drew profiles, measured frames and photographed fasteners. I gave a talk on maritime archaeology at the Schoodic Education and Research Center Wednesday night. On Thursday afternoon Park staff searched the William O. Sawtelle Curatorial Center and found several excellent historic photos of the cove, two showing a mill that might have been associated with the wreck. We found sawdust, as well as tar, coal, and brick fragments, near the keel.

Seal Cove Shipwreck Project: volunteer!

As part of the Seal Cove Shipwreck Project we are going to be recording a shipwreck in the intertidal zone in Seal Cove, Maine, August 1-5. This is an IMH project in conjunction with Acadia National Park. Learn the basics for mapping and documenting a wreck site by working with maritime archaeologists. Potential volunteer activities could include making archaeological drawings of the vessel, recording the site in photographs, and transferring the field drawings onto a site plan. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Rebecca Cole-Will, Cultural Resources Program Manager at Acadia National Park;; (207) 288-8728.