In 1778, the formidable Peaked Hill Bars bested a dreaded symbol of British imperial power: H.M.S. Somerset, the 64-gun ship-of-the-line that had terrorized the people of Boston and Charlestown, figuring in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride as “A phantom ship, with each mast and spar / Across the moon like a prison-bar, / And a huge black hulk, that was magnified / By its own reflection in the tide.” The skeletal hull has occasionally been revealed since it went aground during the Revolutionary War. Its emergence in April 2010 gave the National Park Service a chance to commission a three-dimensional rendering from laser scans and to pinpoint the wreckage through satellite navigation. I happened to come upon the scene by great good luck as Steven Pendery and his colleagues fought the advancing seas and sands for this precious glimpse.
More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.