December 13, 2010

Maine State Museum commemorates the wreck of the Nottingham Galley

Kennebec Journal Staff

AUGUSTA -- The Maine State Museum is marking the 300th anniversary of one of Maine's most storied nautical disasters with a new exhibit of objects recovered from the underwater wreck site of the British merchant ship, the Nottingham Galley, according to a news release.

Loaded with butter, cheese, and cordage, the Nottingham Galley and its fifteen-man crew set sail for Massachusetts from Ireland in September 1710. After days of worsening weather, the Nottingham Galley crashed into a ledge on Boon Island near York's Cape Neddick during the stormy night of Dec. 11, 1710. The men survived but the ship and its contents were destroyed.

"The grisly fame of the Nottingham Galley's story lies in what followed during the 24 days that the ship's crew was marooned on Boon Island," explains Maine State Museum Chief Archaeologist Dr. Bruce Bourque. "Faced with starvation, cold, and extreme privation, they cannibalized one of their fellow crew members who had died of exposure. The museum's small exhibit makes reference to that story."

"Additionally, we spotlight another aspect of survival related to the Nottingham Galley," continues Bourque. "That survival concerns the ship's cannons and related cannon-firing supplies recovered from the sea floor by archaeologists in 1995. Following a challenging, emergency recovery effort and subsequent conservation of the water-logged and deteriorating objects, the cannons and supplies survive to this day as a remarkable, permanent part of the Maine State Museum's collection."

The exhibit features one of the ship's nine recovered cannons, along with a cannon ball, wadding, and powder bag. The exhibit's photographs and video show the underwater archaeology conducted by Dr. Warren Riess of the University of Maine's Darling Marine Center. The exhibit, "The Wreck of the Nottingham Galley," will be on view through March 201.

The Maine State Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, www.mainestatemuseum.org

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