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Mystery Collier

Not all of the coal carried two New England arrived on schooners the size of Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary. In 2003, the sanctuary located a much smaller coal carrying sailing vessel or collier. Vessels of this size were more common than great coal schooners and carried coal to heat people's homes, power textile factories, and fuel railroads during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Inner hull
The mystery collier's frames and inner hull planking. Courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS, NURC-UConn, and the Science Channel.

The coal trade between New England and the Mid-Atlantic states supported a large fleet of sailing colliers during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of these vessels were schooners with anywhere from 2 to 6 masts. The smaller schooners with 2 masts, represented by this site, carried cargos of ice or stone south and returned north with holds full of coal.

Coal transit vessels
Vessels filled with coal transited through Massachusetts Bay throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Courtesy of LARC.

The sanctuary is studying this unidentified collier shipwreck to discover its identity and learn about its crew. Archaeologists used a ROV to record video of the shipwreck's diagnostic features, such as the artifacts found on its deck and its construction features. These clues will help researchers narrow down the time period in which the vessel operated.

The mystery collier's bow with an anemone living on its
stem. Courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS, NURC-UConn,
and the Science Channel.


The mystery collier's stern. Courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS,
NURC-UConn, and the Science Channel.


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