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Explore: Bessie White Shipwreck

The four-masted Canadian 200-foot coal schooner hit a sandbar on February 6, 1922, while en route from Newport News, Virginia, to St. John, New Brunswick, in thick fog. As a result, the ship began to take on water. She ended up stranded on Fire Island’s shore despite the efforts of the 20 men on board. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but the ship and its cargo were lost.

A 1975 photo of what is believed to be the hull of the Bessie White in the Fire Island Wilderness.
NPS Photo.

Foster Stills and Harry Paine of Patchogue, who oversaw the recovery and distribution of significant ship parts, acquired the rights to the wreckage. The four masts were distributed to towns on the east end of Long Island for use as flagpoles while the engine was returned to the manufacturer.

During low tide, it was possible to walk to the wreckage, which was only 400 feet from the shore, but eventually it sank into the sand.

What’s special about this wreck is that it periodically pops up near the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, not far from Watch Hill.

The ship’s hull’s remnants were discovered in 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy. It is significant to note that while the remains are believed to be those of the Bessie White, it is challenging to confirm with any degree of certainty that they are in fact a part of the ship.

From The National Park Service

Nearly a century after it sank, in 2021, her remains were once more discovered.

How to find it?

Due to its nature of playing hide and seek, it is sometimes difficult to find.

It is about 4 miles east of Davis Park past Watch Hill. Report state it’s between Long Cove and Whalehouse Point (which is quite a stretch of sand). There is a big cut in the dunes created by Hurricane Sandy so be on the lookout for that, the wreck is just west of it.

Take a stop into the Visitor Center at Watch Hill on your way to ask around.

And don’t forget to bring water and sunscreen!

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