Coast & Sustainability

Storm Surge Washes Away 110-year-old Shipwreck on Crane Beach

The exposed hull of the Ada K. Damon, wrecked nearly 111 years ago, was torn apart by the storm surge from the effects of Hurricane Teddy passing a few hundred miles offshore this week.

The Ada K. Damon as seen in early September 2020

Remnants of the Ada K. Damon on Sept. 25, 2020

A famed local shipwreck has been a familiar sight to beachgoers in Ipswich for nearly 111 years, but the sea finally seems to be reclaiming the Ada K. Damon as the storm surge from Hurricane Teddy broke apart the ship’s timbers and scattered them along the beach.

The exposed hull of the Ada K. Damon, a local landmark for more than 100 years when it wasn’t buried by shifting sands, was torn apart by the storm surge from the effects of Hurricane Teddy passing a few hundred miles offshore this week. Remnants of the boat are washing up along the shore, and what’s left of the exposed hull is shifting in the ebb and flow of each new tide cycle.

Remnants of the Ada K. Damon on Sept. 25, 2020

Remnants of the Ada K. Damon on Sept. 25, 2020

Representatives from the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR) were at the beach on Sept. 25 to document the wreck site via drone and provide further guidance. They are documenting every piece of the ship that’s washed up on Steep Hill Beach as part of an initial survey, and will return next week to determine more scenarios for removal and preservation.

The Trustees is determining what will be done with the pieces of the wreckage that can be salvaged.

The ship is well known and part of the fabric of the history of the area. Captain A.K. Brewster owned the 84-foot schooner, and it was made by the Burnhams of Essex in 1875. When the “Great Christmas Snowstorm” of 1909 hit, the ship was stranded 3.5 miles south-southwest of the Plum Island Coast Guard station, and ultimately wrecked on Crane Beach at high tide on Dec. 26, 1909. All the crew survived, but the ship was declared a total loss, stripped, and abandoned when Brewster could not find a buyer.

Parts of the ship have been visible for many years, but there have been long stretches when shifting sands covered the wreckage completely. The wreck has been used for educational purposes as well; for example, since 2015, The Trustees has allowed BUAR and Salem State University to allow students to work in a hands-on capacity at the wreck site to learn research and documentation methods in maritime archaeology.

While the ship is a sentimental attraction, The Trustees urges beachgoers to steer clear of the wreckage and reminds people metal detecting and scavenging for relics is not allowed on Trustees properties unless it is approved by the Trustees and state-permitted. Permits are only issued to archaeologists and other qualified persons who present a plan for scientific investigation to be carried out under the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.

Further updates will be released when BUAR’s survey is completed.

For more information on Crane Beach and to reserve passes via our online ticketing system, visit

A black and white photograph of a beach with many people in the foreground and people sitting on the hull of a shipwreck in the background.

People enjoying a summer picnic sitting on the Ada K. Damon in the 1920s

Crane Shipwreck Annual Report archives

As reported in The Trustees 125th Anniversary commemorative book, experts confirmed in 2015 that the wreck was indeed the Ada K. Damon. Click to read.

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