August 04, 2020

Portland shipwreck to be added to historic registry

BOSTON – The wreck of the steamship Portland, located off the coast of Massachusetts, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The registry is the nation’s list of places worthy of preservation.

The wreck was found in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and already is protected under federal law. Sanctuary superintendent Craig MacDonald said Thursday that the new designation could mean additional future protections and attract more research dollars by raising the wreck’s profile.

The Portland sank in a vicious storm in November 1898 after its captain ignored ominous weather forecasts and set out on the 100-mile trip between Boston and Portland, Maine. The boat is believed to have tried to turn around about 14 miles off Gloucester before it was lost. The wreck killed 192 people and remains the worst maritime disaster in New England’s history.

The Portland was found in August 2002, but researchers won’t reveal its exact location for fear of scavengers.

It’s the first shipwreck from the Stellwagen Bank sanctuary to be included on the register.

In order to qualify for the register, the Portland wreck had to meet three standards: It had to be associated with an event that contributed significantly to history; it had to have distinctive construction; its archaeological remains had to yield, or be likely to yield, significant historical information.

Since 2002, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have visited the wreck annually and used underwater robots to study its condition. NOAA officials say the wreck of the paddlewheel steamship is well-preserved, and they expect further study to yield information about its passengers, crew and why it sank.

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