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Pilot spots shipwreck off of Cape Cod

A pilot, flying along the coast of Cape Cod, has spotted a mysterious 50-foot-long shipwreck poking out of the sand just off of North Beach Island in Chatham.

“It’s not a case of pirate treasure or lots of people killed in an accident,’’ said Victor Mastone, director of the state’s Board of Underwater Archeological Resources. “It strikes me that it’s a vessel that might have run aground and sanded over.’’

At low tide, the wreckage, which appears to be made of wood, sits in 8 to 10 feet of water, but it cannot be seen from the beach, officials said. The vessel, which remains partially buried in the sand, appears to have had two or three masts. Its discovery was first reported in the Cape Cod Times. The ship’s identity remains unknown as officials take a closer look, and even then its history might be difficult to uncover, Mastone said. The best guess at the moment is that it was a cargo vessel.

“Two-masted and three-masted schooners are the most common vessel of the 19th century. They’re the 18-wheelers of their day,’’ Mastone said. “They’re so common, on one level, that it’s hard to narrow down.’’

The coastline around Chatham is constantly changing as forces of nature shift the sands, said Theodore L. Keon, director of Chatham coastal resources. Where the wreck is now buried was an inlet a century ago.

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