Public affairs specialist for the park, Paula Valentine, told Our Amazing Planet that the exact history of the ship, the Bessie White, is fuzzy; however, it is clear the Bessie White ran aground because of heavy fog in either 1919 or 1922. The entire crew made it to shore in two life boats, although one sank on the way. Even the ship’s cat made it out alive.
The ship was salvaged, but the tons of coal onboard were lost.
Newsday reported the Long Island Maritime Museum has determined the ship was built in the 15 years between the Civil War and 1880, and historians will try to determine its true identity. The ship’s size has been compared to a city bus and had four masts, according to the Christian Post.
“There's so little of it left we may not be not be able to determine which ship it actually is, but we may be able to learn more about its age,” Valentine told Our Amazing Planet. “It's just a rare treat to see something exposed.”
Long boards on the schooner and metal pegs were exposed in the surf after a 2006 nor’easter, but that storm paled in comparison to Sandy. Fire Island is a natural blockade that was breached during the devastating hurricane, leading to 80 homes being flooded.
The entire island was underwater during Sandy, and the erosion pushed sand dunes back 72 feet. Archaeologists have swarmed to Fire Island to examine the wreck before the weather buries the ship again.
The wreck’s final resting place sits between Whalehouse Point and Skunk Hollow on Fire Island’s National Seashore.