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Mysterious Newfoundland shipwreck finally out of the water

By Garrett Barry

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    ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador (CTV Network) — It took a few cuts with a chainsaw and the full strength of a 30-ton excavator, but a mysterious Newfoundland shipwreck has finally been pulled out of the water near the small community of Cape Ray.

The boat was fully lifted from the shore on Sunday, nearly 10 weeks after it was spotted in a provincial park on Newfoundland’s southeast coast. The mystery ship has fascinated locals in the area, who are now fundraising in hopes of constructing a permanent home for the boat.

“It’s not only the talk of the town, it’s the talk of the whole area. We’re getting people that come up on that beach, and they come from everywhere,” said Anne Osmond, who chairs the community’s local service district.

“I think that this would be the boost that the southwest coast needs.”

Though not much is known about the vessel, some estimates place it at more than 200 years old.

Initial surveys performed by a provincial government archeology team suggested the ship’s construction is indicative of 19th century techniques, according to Jamie Brake, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial archeologist.

A professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., has taken a sample back to a university lab in hopes of learning more about the patterns in the wood of the vessel.

Trevor Croft, who has been working on securing the wreck for weeks, and who helped pull it from the water on Sunday, said the construction is even more impressive than originally thought and suspects the boat was of some importance.

“I’m surprised it sank in the first place,” he said. “It wasn’t something that was just used for fishing or something like that.”

Sunday’s move ends weeks of anxiety in Cape Ray. Residents worried that the boat would once again wash away, but this time, for good.

“It busted its moorings seven times, and we had to tie it on eight times,” Croft said. “No matter what we do, the water comes up and it wanted to take it back.”

When the boat first washed ashore, bystanders measured it to be about 120 feet (36.5 metres), Croft said. The relentless pounding of waves in the area broke parts of the ship apart, and it measured roughly 80 feet (24 metres) before it was cut up and brought on land.

Croft said it’s remarkable the boat appeared up in such good shape.

The J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, where the boat was found, is one of the few sandy beaches in the province. The ship managed to avoid dozens of rocky shoals that would have broken it apart before it resurfaced.

Volunteers are hoping to stitch the boat back together and move it to the Cape Ray lighthouse, about 6 kilometres away. According to Osmond, the eventual goal is to construct an extension to the local museum to contain the ship.

“A lot of heavy equipment has to be hired. It’s going to be real expensive,” Osmond said. “And I’m sure we will come up with some funding.”

With files from NTV

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