Beach Plum Island Shipwreck 

It would be most helpful if someone out there could lead us in the right direction. We have researched all shipwrecks in Delaware and none were this large that ended up in the bay and are not documented for sure off the Atlantic Coast.

  Length 255 ft at the keels on level
  Beam    44 ft
  Absolutely no ballast.
  All iron pins and treenail construction.

  No evidence of coal or power source other than transverse supports,
  possible by Briggs design as a mast support system with no mast steps (inlaid).

Our report has been submitted to the State of Delaware and if we can name her or someone out there can name her, she might be eligible for listing on the historical register.

   Do what you can do even by offering people to contact me for more info. You may go to my store web site : or email me at All that is being done is in the name of archeology, not treasure hunting. That's just the name of my business and since I sell metal detectors here too.
Regards, Bill Winkler


 Beach Plum Island Project

Overview of Results.      COLOR CODE FOR SITE MAP

Results after downloading the data from the “Husky” FS/2 Data Collector, yielded a length from the bow to the sternpost of 255.34 ft. and a beam of 44.40 ft.  Remnants of the bow stands approximately 2.5 ft above the top of the keelson and the sternpost stands 2.3 ft above.  

The Keelson, as indicated by green on the site map, consists of a 1ft.sq. rider on top, with two 1ft.sq. sister keelsons on each side(cross-section would show six 1ft square timbers, 3 on the bottom and 3 on the top). Next to this massive center section is yet another set of 1ft.sister keelsons, which total 5ft wide at the base and 3ft.wide in the center section.  Not indicated on the site map, towards the stern of the ship at approximately 45R&L there is yet another 1ft.sister keelson which would make that section 7ft.wide at the base. It extends stern-ward approximately to 56R&L.  There are also remnants of bilge keelsons 3.2 ft away from the center keelson structure. They consist of two beams, the lower being 1.5 ft. thick and the rider 1ft. thick . The remnants of the bilge keelsons run parallel to the keelson structure as indicated in green from –14L to –11L and an unmeasured section from approximately 53L to 50L(port side). 14R to 0, 9R to 12R, 23R to 35 R(starboard side).

The 2.0 ft square ribs, as indicated in black, are 3ft. apart from their center line, with a 1ft. space in between.  On port and starboard sides there was only one 1ft. wedge that was found intact which served as a brace to stabilize the ribs from shifting. All visible ribs had a V slot cut in adjacent ribs where a wedge had been inserted. The water readily washes back and forth, under the keelson, which would account for the loss of these wedges from tidal action and biological degradation from marine borers(tube worms).

The decking planks or ceiling planks (indicated in red on the site map) run from bow to stern, perpendicular to the ribs.  The planks are .8ft thick x 1.8ft. wide with varying lengths.  

The only remnants of the double hull, as indicated in deep blue on the site map, are as follows: on the port side of the ship from –7L forward to the bow, and on the starboard side from 4R forward to approximately –6R, major damage from –6R to –9R, then intact double hull from –9R forward to the bow. The ceiling(interior sides & decking) and exterior hull planking are .4 ft thick x .8 ft. width, with length of planks varying. Exterior planking is attached to each futtock(upward rib extension) mainly with wooden trunnels(tree nails) and with occasional iron pins where the iron cross-bracing intersects. The trunnel heads are saw cut with a wooden wedge inserted to keep the trunnel from slipping outward.

Inter-connected iron cross-brace remnants exist throughout the existing double hull(the last intact cross-brace was found broken off on November 4, 2001).  The iron braces are 0.3ft.wide x 1/2inch thick in a very corroded state. The lengths of these iron braces would have extended from the lower part of the double hull to the top of the sides of the ship(possibly 35ft long in a diagonal, in some places).  The braces are attached at each cris-cross intersection by the same iron pin(riveted on both ends) that  holds the planking to the futtock(upward extension of the rib).  This iron cross-bracing was used by, the famous ship architect and builder, Donald McKay from New England in his Clipper ship design.  The James Baines , Champion of the Seas & the Donald McKay(266ft bow to stern upper deck length, 46ft beam) were the only 3 Clippers of McKays’ that used the iron cross-bracing which are in the size range of the Beach Plum Island shipwreck(255 ft length, 44.4ft beam at the keelson level). Does the shoe fit?

The bow of the ship is unique in its’ design, since a side view as seen in spring bow photo, shows what appears to be a double bow.  In Robert Crittendon’s research he came across a technique of putting a spring in the bow of ships.  It consisted of a metal brace, with a rounded bolt behind as a stop measure, but would allow the bow of the ship to act as a spring to absorb shock from large waves or ice.  As you can see in the photos, this type of spring absorbing structure exists, in the Beach Plum Island mystery ship.

The remnants of the sternpost measures 2ft. square x 2.3 ft high.  One U-brace to the rudder remains attached below the water line to the sternpost.  It measures 3.0ft on the starboard side and 5.8 ft. on the port side. One has to be very cautious walking around the stern of the ship since these stick way out and are not visible at low tide. On days when the wave action is strong, the entire sternpost moves back and forth with each wave. The sternpost will be short lived and probably will break off soon.

There are three V-cuts in the decking where what appears to have been support beams that ran perpendicular to the keelson at base point 0, 17L & 17R and at 32L & 32R. As indicated on the site map in green at base point 0, on the port side, is the only remnant of what could be a Donald McKay mast support system, which he invented to use in lieu of a mast step. Measurement of this remnant support is 2.3ft. wide x 17ft long.  These three locations of possible mast support beams could indicate the location of at least three masts. In reviewing the site map, a fourth or mizzen-mast could have been further stern-ward of rib 32 at approximately rib 47.  A more detailed inspection of the stern could reveal yet another V-cut.

Another unique feature is the remnant of a 1 foot diameter stanchion(round post) found between ribs 29R and 30R. There are wooden braces on both sides of the stanchion remnant wedged between ribs 29R and 30R, which would have supported the base of the stanchion from shifting.  

Approximately three hundred photographs were taken with 35mm and digital cameras.  Four 30 minute video tapes were taken, in April and November 2001 of the complete ship with exterior views of the starboard, port and bow. Extensive video was also taken of the interior of the hull and with views from the beach.

The overall condition of the ship is in rapid bio-physical deterioration, since it is exposed totally to the elements of two high tides per day, wave and wind action and biological intrusion.  On November the 4th, 2001 a large rib section was found washed ashore and yet another large rib section washed all the way down to the jetty at Roosevelt Inlet(eastward), about ¼ mile away.  Other pieces are scattered on the beach and on the sides of the ship below the water line.  Approximately 50 ft of the stern section has listed approximately 10 degrees towards the starboard side(eastward)of the ship. This listing has occurred between April 2001 and November 4, 2001, as seen in photo comparison in the report.  The stern section stays mostly submerged and marine borers have accelerated the deterioration of the wood there.


Beach Plum Island Project Report Contents and Availability:
Site map: 2ft x 3ft. four color computer generated by Elton Murray P.L.S.
CD Rom: The CD contains all 308 35mm and digital color photographs, some of which have been labeled for use in the report.
Video tape: 2 hours of video from April 2001 and Nov 2001, a pleasant visual documentation of the shipwrecks’ remains.

Text includes: Executive Summary, Abstract, Introduction, Historical Research and Analysis, Environmental(Physical, Geomorphologic, Hydrologic, Meterologic, Water Quality, Physiochemical, Biological, Water Use and Land Use Patterns), Field Methodology, Results, Structural Integrity, Conclusions and Discussion, Illustrations, Color Photographs, overlays, related maps of the area and the Delaware Cultural Resource Survey Archaeological Site Form , bound in a white 3 ring binder.

William J. Winkler, Sr
Project Manager Beach Plum Island Project


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