Ship Ahoy

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In 1863, a powerful storm around Cape Cod revealed the wreckage of a legendary long-lost ship believed to be the oldest remains of a vessel that sailed during Colonial America.

But uncertainty surrounded the origins of the Sparrow-Hawk which sank around 1626.

Recently, a thorough study of the ship’s timber revealed that it was indeed the 17th-century vessel, CBS News reported.

The Sparrow-Hawk was a small ship bound for Jamestown, Virginia and onboard were English merchants and their indentured servants.

The arduous voyage from Europe, however, came to an abrupt end in 1626 after a storm caused a shipwreck near the current town of Orleans, according to accounts by Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford. The passengers survived and were aided by the local Indigenous population and the Pilgrims in nearby Plymouth.

And while many for years believed the ship was, in fact, the Sparrow-Hawk, it was never proved so until now.

For their study, a research team used a form of radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology – the study of tree ring growth – to determine when the nearly 40-foot Sparrow-Hawk was built.

Their findings suggested that the wood used to make the boat was harvested between 1556 and 1646, adding that the ring patterns resembled tree-ring chronologies from 17th century southern England.

The ship’s remains are currently stored at Plymouth’s Pilgrim Hall Museum and have been previously displayed to the public.

The authors are planning to use digital modeling to build a 3D model of the vessel and display it once again to the public during its 400th anniversary in 2026.

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