Particulars: Lifeguard-protected beach is available at Head of the Meadow Beach in summer. Limited restroom facilities are available at Head of the Meadow Beach in summer only.
Directions: Traveling north on Route 6, proceed .25 mile north from Cape Cod Light/Highland Road exit. Look for the brown and white Head of the Meadow Beach sign on the right. Turn right and proceed two miles to the beach and bike trail head. Other areas of interest nearby include Pilgrim Heights (one mile further north on Route 6) and High Head (.5 mile further north beyond Pilgrim Heights).
Safety: Use caution when turning on and off Route 6 onto side roads in these locations. Traffic is heavy in summer.
An Ocean Graveyard
So many ships have piled up on the hidden sand bars off the coast between Chatham and Provincetown that those forty miles of sea have been called an "ocean graveyard." Indeed, between Truro and Wellfleet alone, there have been more than 1,000 wrecks.
When a storm struck the Cape in the early days, no one was surprised to hear the alarm: Ship ashore! All hands perishing! The townspeople would turn out on the beach, but usually the surf was too high for them to attempt a rescue. By the time the storm was over, there was usually no one to rescue.
The first recorded wreck was the Sparrowhawk which ran aground at Orleans in 1626. The people aboard were able to get ashore safely, and the ship was repaired. But, before it could set sail, the ship was sunk by another storm and wasn’t seen for over two hundred years. In 1863, after storms had shifted the sands again, the skeleton of the Sparrowhawk reappeared briefly. So the ocean takes and gives back and takes again. (The ribs of the ship are now on display in Plymouth at Pilgrim Hall.)
But if the passengers and crew of these early ships couldn’t be saved, the cargo often was. After a wreck, townspeople would come out with their carts and horses and haul away the spoils: wine, coffee, nutmeg, cotton, tobacco, and whatever else the ship had been carrying. Sometimes owners of the wreck paid the local people to salvage their cargo; often the local people simply went on the theory that finders were keepers. Certainly, this was their theory when the famous pirate, Samuel Bellamy, and his ship, the Whydah, went down off Wellfleet in the spring of 1717. Although officially all goods on such a ship belonged to the colony, plunder occurred.
From the Head of the Meadow Beach at North Truro, the wreck of the Frances, which was sunk in a December gale in 1872, may still be seen at low tide. United States Life Saving Service men dragged a whaleboat from the bay across the Cape to the outer beach and rescued all aboard. The captain, who died several days later from the effects of exposure, is buried in Truro.