Nantucket Lightship Mystery

bloglv612 Graham McKay, a grad student studying marine archaeology at the University of Bristol, England, has been exploring the shipwreck of Nantucket Lightship, LV-1 as a thesis to earn his master’s degree.

He has found evidence that the shipwreck, located near the north bank of the Merrimac River in Groveland, Mass, could be Nantucket Lightship LV-1, the second floating Lighthouse stationed at Nantucket New South Shoal which was later renamed Nantucket Shoals in 1896.

Mr. McKay can not explain why there is a 23-foot difference between the shipwreck that measures 80-feet long and the 103-foot long Lightship LV-1. Due to confusing historical details, he can not explain how a significant Light vessel from Nantucket was shipwrecked in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

According to the Coast Guard Web-page, Lightship LV-1 was retired in 1930 and donated to the Haverhill Sea Scouts. Later, the Lightship was moved near the Groveland Bridge over the Merrimac River for the Groveland (misspelled as Groveton) Sea Scouts. In 1936, the Lightship broke free of her mooring during the spring flood and floated down river and sank near the north bank of the river. The Lightship was stripped and abandoned. Over the years, shrubbery and trees have covered the side of the hull forming a small island at high tide in the river.

With a little research effort, 12 different Lightships were assigned to Nantucket Shoals from 1854 to 1983 as well as numerous Relief Lightships. Yet, only Light Vessels constructed using oak and copper spikes need to be investigated which narrows the field to four possible Lightships:

1854- 1855 Lightship LV-11, 104-feet long wood hull
1855 – 1892 Relief Lightship LV-1, 103-feet long wood hull
1892, Jun 14-Nov 13 Relief Lightship LV-9, 81-feet long wood hull
1892 – 1893 Relief Lightship LV-39, 119.5-feet long wood hull

Perhaps, Relief Lightship LV-9 could be the shipwreck that Graham McKay is investigating. LV-9 was condemned and sold in 1925 and the final whereabouts of LV-9 is uncertain. The length of the ship closely matches the 80-feet long measurement made by Graham McKay.

For a map of the possible shipwreck site, please visit the Google Map of Groveland shipwreck

For a map of the Nantucket Shoals, please visit the Nautical Chart of Nantucket Shoals, currently marked by a Lighted Whistle Buoy, exhibiting a Flashing Yellow Light every 6-seconds.
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Related interesting note: One of the last two Nantucket Lightships (WLV-612) has been renovated as a luxury private yacht which is available for weekly charters during the summer sailing from Nantucket Harbor (May to September) and event charters sailing from Rowes Wharf in Boston Harbor from October to April. For more information, please visit Nantucket Lightship WLV-612

From 1975 to 1983, both WLV 612 and WLV 613 alternated service at the Nantucket Shoals station relieving each other every 21 days. Lightship WLV 613 has the honor of being the last American Lightship on duty. On Dec 20, 1983, Lightship WLV 613 was deactivated and replaced by a LNB (Large Navigational Buoy), considered to be a floating automated Lighthouse equipped with a Light, Fog Signal, and radar beacon.

Lightship WLV 613 or Nantucket II Lightship is currently docked at a shipyard near Wareham Center and the mouth of the Agawam River for interior renovations.

blue_starMap Location:
For a map of the Nantucket II Lightship, please visit the Google Map of Lightship WLV 613

Related News Source:
Amesbury scholar trying to document Merrimack River’s mystery shipwreck, Aug 7, 2007

Photo Credit: Christopher Peterson, (c) 2007

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About Debbie Dolphin

Lighthouse author and photographer living in New England

Posted on August 10, 2007, in lightship, marine archaeology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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