NOAA warns boaters to steer clear of 11 shipwrecks, including WWII minesweeper, in marine sanctuary east of Boston

March 28, 2024

What technology could change the way we learn about shipwrecks

What technology could change the way we learn about shipwrecks


Federal authorities are asking fishing vessels to steer clear of 11 shipwreck located in a marine sanctuary east of Boston, warning that they could “cause serious damage” to the many historically significant ships that have gone down in the waters since the 19th century.

In a news release issued Wednesday, NOAA is requesting that vessels avoid the shipwreck sites in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which sits between Cape Ann and Cape Cod. Though dozens of shipwrecks lie in the sanctuary, NOAA singled out 11 wrecks for boaters to avoid, including the World War II minesweeper USS Heroic, the trawler Josephine Marie and the 55-foot North Star. The other eight wrecks are unknown vessels, the agency said.

Nets drape the wreck of the USS Heroic, a former minesweeper.


“NOAA recognizes that fishermen want to avoid shipwrecks to ensure the safety of the crew and because of the risks of damaging their gear when the gear gets hung up on a wreck or other objects on the ocean floor,” the agency said, while providing a map and coordinates for the doomed vessels. “Hanging up on a wreck can also cause serious damage to shipwrecks that have historical significance.”

The sanctuary said that shipwrecks are crucial to the area because they provide habitat and refuge for a variety of marine life and are “memorial sites representing the last resting place of fishermen and sailors.”

In addition to the USS Heroic, the Josephine Marie and the North Star, there are at least 10 other named vessels lying on the ocean floor in the sanctuary, including the steamship Portland which was sunk by a storm in 1898, killing all 192 people on board, and the steamship Pentagoet, which lost 18 crewmembers in the same storm.

Synthetic aperture sonar image of the steamship Portland draped in fishing gear with a school of fish swimming overhead.

NOAA/SBNMS and Applied Signal Technology, Inc.

The most recent ship to sink in the sanctuary is the 60-foot Patriot, which went down on Jan. 3, 2009, killing both crewmembers on board.

The sanctuary says its “shipwrecks serve as time capsules of our nation’s maritime history.”

Historic shipwrecks are protected under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act as well as other federal regulations.   

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is now a premier destination for whale watching. Last year, scientists at the sanctuary urged the public to be on the lookout for two missing research tags used to study large whales, noting they could “wash ashore anywhere along” the coast.

Josephine Marie’s propeller.

Matthew Lawrence, NOAA/SBNMS

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