Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
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Maritime Heritage Resources

Boston Harbor at the turn of the 20th century.

Uncounted prehistoric and historicarchaeological sites lie within theGerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS). Human activities created these sites through a long process that began in ancient times. Before the ocean flooded Massachusetts Bay, humans and animals walked land that is now known as Stellwagen Bank. When the ocean inundated the bay, humans continued accessing the area in watercraft and gathering its abundant natural resources.

In recent centuries, modern society has brought increasing use of the sanctuary’s waters. Located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary sits astride the historic shipping lanes and fishing grounds for such ports as Boston, Gloucester, Plymouth, Salem, and Provincetown. These ports have been centers of maritime activity in New England for over 300 years. As a result, the sanctuary is a repository for this nation’s maritime heritage resources in the form of shipwrecks.

Historic uses of the sanctuary include whaling, fishing, and maritime transportation, all evidenced by the remains of historic shipwrecks on the seafloor. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is responsible for interpreting, protecting and preserving its maritime heritage resources for current and future generations. Maritime heritage research, monitoring, and educational programs aim to further knowledge of the past and inform the public about the importance of all the sanctuary’s resources.

Maritime heritage resources are nonrenewable gateways to the past, it is through the interpretation of these resources that the sanctuary hopes to increase public enjoyment and appreciation of New England’s maritime history. By studying and interpreting maritime heritage resources for the public, the sanctuary seeks to foster a greater understanding of America’s maritime legacy.

A sanctuary researcher studies images relayed from a remotely operated vehicle.

Since the sanctuary began investigating its heritage resources, researchers have located 12 shipwrecks. Past expeditions have used remote sensing technology to confirm the locations of the Portland, Frank A. Palmer, and Louise B. Crary. Archaeologists have also located and identified the remains of the 5-masted schooner Paul Palmer, which burned in 1913. Sanctuary researchers are systematically investigating the seafloor with sonar and underwater robots as well as scuba diving to archaeologically document the sanctuary’s maritime heritage resources.

Page last modified by the Stellwagen Web team on
July 23, 2004

Revised July 23, 2004 by
National Ocean Service | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | U.S. Department of Commerce