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Here in Massachusetts, we are quite familiar with the stories of witches, witchcraft, black magic, and spells—after all, our very own City of Salem was the site of the witchcraft trials of 1692-3. Less familiar, but as deeply intriguing, are some of the strange and spooky sea stories that took place on and off the coast of the Bay State. Back before the time of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and NOAA nautical charts, the coast of Massachusetts was considered a perilous place for ships ferrying cargo, catching fish, or attempting to reach port. Craggy headlands, unseen shoals, strong currents, extreme tides, fierce nor'easters, and a few pirates led to the demise of many a ship and crew. Add to these perils the bloodshed from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the risk of succumbing to disease in the days before antibiotics, or the potential of a visit from a sea monster and you have set the stage for a rich history of hair-raising Massachusetts maritime folklore. Though the historical facts of the following "lucky seven" stories (and the apparitions themselves) may or may not necessarily be clear, everyone enjoys a good spine-tingling story. So sit back, read on, click the links for more information, or head on over to one of these mysterious coastal sites to see for yourself.
Something Scarier than a Spooky Abandoned Ship—Ghost Gear! - "Ghost gear"—discarded or lost fishing gear, such as nets, plastic lines, and lobster pots—causes many problems in the marine environment. It entangles and chokes sea life, damages fishing equipment and engines, and adds to the already overwhelming quantities of marine debris in the ocean. To find out more, see the Newburyport News article 'Ghost gear' finds a better place to haunt for information on efforts to collect and recycle derelict ghost gear in Newburyport, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Abandonment of Fishing Gear web page for information on the ghost gear issue, and NOAA's Marine Debris Program website for details on the effects of marine debris on wildlife.
Other Shipwrecks to Explore Along the Bay State's Shore - The Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, hosted by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), provides a list of approximately 40 shipwrecks that you are free to explore under water! See their Shipwreck Sites Open to Divers web page for the list of accessible vessels with detailed descriptions of their fateful demise, the exact location of the shipwreck, and dive site conditions.
All photographs courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce Photo Library.