Art Iannone, who found this large piece of wood on the beach, believes it is a remnant of an old shipwreck. (Photo courtesy of Art Iannone)
By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The brownish object lying on the 30th Street beach in Sea Isle City seemed to be nothing more than a big rock when Art Iannone approached it.
But a closer look revealed what appeared to be a curved piece of wood dotted with holes that had been hollowed out for pegs.
After seeing the peg holes, Iannone was astonished with what he believed he had stumbled upon in late January.
“You could tell it was from a shipwreck. It was definitely part of a shipwreck,” Iannone said in an interview Monday, surmising that the piece of wood was perhaps hundreds of years old.
But which shipwreck?
Sea Isle’s history is laden with shipwrecks dating to the 1700s and 1800s. Bob Thibault, a volunteer with the Sea Isle City Historical Society & Museum, recently wrote a story chronicling some of the old sailing ships that foundered in Townsends Inlet and other parts of the island over the centuries.
Although he is far from certain, Iannone believes the 8- to 10-foot-long piece of deteriorated wood he found in Sea Isle may be a remnant from a shipwreck unearthed on a beach in Stone Harbor in 2019. Shifting sands revealed the oak timbers forming the ship’s ribs, which were about 25 feet long.
Some local historians speculated in 2019 that the timber might have been part of the D.H. Ingraham, a cargo schooner that sank near Hereford Inlet between Stone Harbor and North Wildwood in 1886 while traveling from Rockland, Maine, to Richmond, Virginia.
The shipwreck’s timber ribs were studded with wooden pegs that were part of the vessel’s construction.
Wooden remains of an old shipwreck on the beach in Stone Harbor were unearthed in 2019 by shifting sands. (Photo from Werner Tedesco Facebook page)
The piece of wood found by Iannone did not have any pegs protruding from the holes. But the empty peg holes it had may be similar to those in the timber ribs from the Stone Harbor shipwreck, he speculated.
Moreover, the holes may be enough evidence to actually tie the piece of wood to the wreck in Stone Harbor, Iannone said.
“Ships that were built hundreds of years ago were pegged together. Pegs fit into the holes,” he said.
Similarly, a piece of old wood on display outside the Sea Isle City Historical Society & Museum has wooden pegs protruding from it, as well as what appears to be an iron or copper peg.
The weathered old piece of wood, grayish in color and close to 7 feet long, serves as one of the decorative centerpieces of the Memorial Garden at the museum. It was donated to the museum by a family that found it on the 64th Street beach in 2017.
Abby Powell, the museum’s former president, wonders whether the wood on display in the Memorial Garden and the piece that Iannone found could be from the same shipwreck – possibly the D.H. Ingraham cargo schooner.
“A lot of these shipwrecks were in Corsons Inlet and Townsends Inlet. A piece of wood like that could be pushed for miles and end up on our beaches. It looks legitimate,” Powell said of Iannone’s discovery possibly being part of a shipwreck.
In a photo from 2019, Sea Isle City Historical Society and Museum members Lynne Shirk, Ron Kovatis, Abby Powell, Arlene McFadden and Anne Organ stand next to what is believed to be a piece of a shipwreck on display at the Memorial Garden.
Powell said the only way to determine whether the wood is indeed from an old shipwreck is to spend thousands of dollars to have it authenticated.
So, for now, guesswork will have to suffice about the wood’s provenance.
“It’s just so fascinating to me the type of stuff that washes up on our beach,” Powell said.
Iannone, who owns the Sands Department Store in Sea Isle, also is fascinated by history, including the possible shipwreck artifact he found.
“I always look for stuff like that,” he said of his walks on the beach. “I like the history.”
He found the old piece of wood shortly after the Jan. 28-29 blizzard that dumped more than 14 inches of snow on Sea Isle.
Following Iannone’s discovery, there were suggestions that the museum could have displayed the wood in an exhibit. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough room for the wood because of the museum’s limited space, Powell explained.
Now, there is another mystery. Iannone left the heavy piece of wood where he found it on the beach, but it has since disappeared. He’s not sure what happened to it.
“It’s gone,” he said. “Someone may have grabbed it.”