On a cool, misty day, a small island appears in the distance off the coast of Georgetown, Prince Edward Island. Known as Poxy Island to the locals, this little piece of land holds a mysterious wonder – the wreck of a ship from many years ago. Its exposed shell makes visitors who stumble upon it at low tide wonder what its past may have looked like. Was it a pirate vessel lost centuries ago while searching for hidden treasure? Was the weathered ship grounded ashore by an unpredictable storm? Many may not know the story of this vessel but if you ask the older locals down at the dock, they’ll be sure to tell you the truth. How it drifts between this world and the next, fading in and out of existence within the sand.
Imagine going for your daily walk along the shore only to discover a shipwreck that had been hidden beneath the sands for many years. This incredible piece of history was suddenly revealed after some unusually high tides that were caused by a lunar event known as a ‘Super Moon’ which took place in June of 2013. A local resident, Steven MacLean, who had been visiting these shores since he was a child, stumbled upon the grounded vessel one day while taking a stroll with his wife, Sharon. For over 50 years, he had camped and spent family beach days right on top of the ship’s buried ruins without ever knowing what magic was resting beneath him.
Right away he knew he had to contact Helen Kristmanson, the Archeologist who was responsible for all archeology conducted within Prince Edward Island. It was discovered that the ship was a 19th century vessel based on the construction. She consulted with an expert in Nova Scotia who helped her to see the great difficulty in identifying historic vessels that either sunk or were driven aground. Usually all identifying details are removed immediately, making it nearly impossible to identify.
Although they weren’t able to find very much information on the ship, I connected with a local Georgetown man whose late uncle actually recalled visiting the shipwreck when it was revealed within the sands of Poxy Island around 80 years ago. He was only a young man at the time.
Apparently this mysterious shipwreck has been playing a long game of hide and seek over the years. Storms periodically shifting the sands, revealing the broken timbers and rusted iron. Eventually its bones will be hidden again, its fate solely depending on the unpredictable wind and waves.
There were many rumours surrounding the shipwreck when it reappeared a century ago on the shores of Poxy Island. Poxy Island got its name as it served as a quarantine zone for incoming vessels, where ships flying yellow flags would wait to be boarded and inspected for crew members infected with Small Pox. The crew would pray for free pratique, clean bills of health that would grant them entry into town. Many wondered if this shipwreck could have once been a ship delivering Small Pox victims to Poxy Island to quarantine.
Others noticed that the well known Shipwreck Map for PEI shows two shipwrecks in the area. Acteon and the Clara Jane were grounded in the 19th and 20th centuries. Could it had been one of these ships? It’s more fun to daydream wild stories about pirate ships and hidden treasure but in reality, these ships were not built to last forever. Her fate was sadly always to one day return to the sea.
The not so wild but realistic truth is this ship was actually abandoned many years ago, driven aground and left to rot as many ships were back in the day. These wooden ships were constructed from the natural materials at hand, explaining their often brief lifespans of around 10 years. Along the banks of the Cardigan River is where the ship building was done. Builders would start their craft on the shores, using nearby timber, before moving the boatyard upriver where they would find more forest as they chased the materials. Aesthetics were not a priority for these vessels; they were built for utility alone.
The sands of time hold many secrets hidden within their drifting dunes. This little piece of history, so briefly shown, will one day be tucked in again, buried and ready for a peaceful slumber until the tides decide to wake it up and reveal its bones again. When future adventurers stumble upon its weathered face, how many years will have passed? We can’t be sure, but I do know that I feel lucky to have experienced this little piece of the past thanks to one of the generous locals in the area.
This adventure wouldn’t have been possible without the friendly owners of Stone’s Throw B&B, Joe and Darlene Harris! Joe, the shipwreck-finding expert, was kind enough to take me along on this quest to find the hidden coastal treasure. We bundled up and headed out on our journey, eventually stumbling upon the incredible piece of history resting on the shore. If you are looking for a charming accommodation in the Georgetown area, I can’t recommend Stone’s Throw B&B more. Two beautiful and cozy seaside units offering queen sized beds, ensuite bathrooms and a breathtaking water view right outside your door. Joe and Darlene will make you feel right at home with their friendly hospitality and wealth of local knowledge. I had a warm welcome back to the Bed & Breakfast with a hot cup of coffee and a homemade peanut butter cookie made by Darlene herself. Book a stay with them and you’re sure to have your own delightful adventure awaiting.
If you decide to go shipwreck hunting in Georgetown, PEI, I recommend stopping by the lovely Maroon Pig Art Gallery & Sweet Shop afterwards to warm up and experience the beautiful art that fills their walls. This little shop screams cozy vibes and invites you to grab a hot latte and some fresh, homemade baked goods made by Richard and Stacy themselves. They also offer delicious daily, homemade lunch specials that are almost impossible to pass up. Check out their Facebook page to see what days they are open so you can plan your adventures accordingly!
As you walk the rocky beach along the Georgetown Harbour, keep an eye out for seaglass or unique fragments of pottery along the shoreline. If you find a piece that catches your eye I highly suggest bringing them into Shoreline Design, which is located directly across from Maroon Pig Art Gallery & Sweet Shop. Shoreline Design is filled with the most beautiful and unique, handmade silver jewelry created by the talented local artist, Peter Llewellyn. He can turn your precious beach finds into one of a kind pieces of jewelry, what an incredible way to commemorate your adventures. This little town is filled with so many hidden treasures, even if you don’t find the pirate’s treasure you may have been hoping for!
Ashley MacDonald is a Nova Scotian born freelance writer who began using her love for writing and photography as a form of therapy during her son’s cancer treatment. She continued to write after he passed away in October 2019 as a way to help keep his story alive, heal her heart and share her experience with grief and sorrow with others who may be struggling. She graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Science Recreation in 2014 and moved to Prince Edward Island in 2020 in search of comfort and simplicity.