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  • Bangor Daily News

    State argues company has no right to old shipwreck off Bar Harbor

    By Bill Trotter and Elizabeth Walztoni,


    The state is claiming it owns a more than century-old shipwreck filled with granite off the coast of Bar Harbor, while the private company that located it seeks salvage rights.

    The Southwest Harbor company JJM LLC, whose hired diver found the ship last fall, filed in federal court last month seeking ownership of the vessel and the right to salvage from it.

    But in an April 16 federal court filing, the state argues that the sunken boat lies within the state’s coastal waters on submerged lands owned by the state, and that the federal Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988 assigns ownership of such vessels to the state.

    Also, because it sank more than 50 years ago, in the 1890s, it may be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, state officials said.

    “The State has never granted permission or authority to JJM, LLC, nor, so far as is known, to any other person or entity, to disturb or take custody of such property,” attorneys representing the state wrote.

    Court documents describe the ship as likely a 20- to 30-foot-tall, 90- to 100-foot-long two-mast sailing vessel with a wooden hull, 90 to 100 feet long. It now rests 120 feet below the ocean’s surface within six nautical miles of Bar Harbor. Further details such as the name and exact location of the ship are being withheld by the court to protect salvage rights.

    In a quirk of federal maritime law, JJM is required to serve the sunken vessel with an arrest warrant as part of its legal claim over the shipwreck. The company took photos on April 2 of a JJM representative holding a warrant sealed in a plastic bag and tied to a brick just before they dropped it over the side of a boat to meet this legal requirement.

    In an affidavit filed with the court, diver Justin Seavey said he was hired by JJM to find the ship and found it on Nov. 5, 2023. He said “numerous” stone pavers were among the ship’s debris.

    The company’s attorney, Benjamin Ford, told the Portland Press Herald the ship is unremarkable, “like finding a pickup truck in the woods, full of cordwood.”

    Ford told the Press Herald that the company sees the state’s filing as a procedural move and is not concerned by it.

    One stone paver and a piece of wood Seavey removed from the ship are in federal custody until ownership is determined.

    Correction: An earlier version of this report misidentified the name of the company seeking ownership rights over the sunken ship.

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