The Lutzen: Shipwreck from 1939 uncovered off Orleans

By on October 5, 2016
The Lutzen: Shipwreck from 1939 uncovered off Orleans

Shifting sands off the coast of Orleans have revealed the wreck of The Lutzen, a British freighter that ran aground in 1939 while carrying a load of frozen blueberries, killing one crew member as those aboard scrambled to save the cargo in an ill-fated effort to right the 135-foot ship.

When the British freighter Lutzen ran aground off the coast of Cape Cod in 1939, it was bound for New York with a cargo of blueberries. One member of the ship’s crew was killed, but the fruit it was carrying was frozen, and much of it found its way into dishes cooked by locals hired to unload the vessel.

Now, 77 years later, marine surveyors say the lost lost 339-ton ship has emerged again and is sitting in shallow water about 400 feet offshore from the town of Orleans.

“It is slowly emerging,” marine surveyor John Perry Fish told the Cape Cod Times.

Mr Fish conducted the sonar mapping on September 26 in conjunction with the state Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources.

Shipwreck historian William Quinn wrote in 1973 that the 339-ton Lutzen grounded in a fog en route to New York City from Saint John, New Brunswick. Much of the blueberry cargo was unloaded, but because it was frozen it ended up in Cape Cod pies.

“The 155-foot freighter sat on the beach for a few days while some attempts were made to pull her off, but a northeast storm tossed her high and dry on the sands, so some local laborers were hired at 75 cents an hour to unload the cargo of blueberries from the ship,” the late Mr Quinn wrote in his 1973 book Shipwrecks Around Cape Cod.

The next day, the tide tipped the Lutzen over, and any thoughts of salvage were abandoned, he wrote. Local people had to move quick to salvage he cargo.

“The well-being of frozen goods depends a great deal upon the temperature. A warm spell set in and half the cargo was lost to thawing. Many of the berries ended up in Outer Cape blueberry pies.”

One contemporary account recalls a glut of the fruit. In an oral history interview conducted by the Orleans Historical Society in 1977, Lewis Eldredge, who was aged 23 in 1939, had visited Nauset Beach to see what “all the fuzz was about”.

“A fellow asked me if I wanted a box of blueberries,” Mr Eldredge recalled. “Well, I thought I was getting a little quart of blueberries. Lord, he brought it must have had 20 quarts or more.”

The newspaper said the British ship is one of 3,500 wrecks recorded along the Massachusetts coast.

The Lutzen was reportedly built as part of a fleet of six trawlers by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company for the French navy to act as minesweepers in the English Channel during World War I. After the war, it was converted to private shipping use.

Christopher B. Taub

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