The story of Captain Carver’s wrecked downeaster St. Mary did not end in 1890. For years, she sat on rocks near Kelp Cove in the Falkland Islands, a barren stretch of land 30 miles or so south of Port Stanley, near the 1982 Falkland Islands War memorial at Bluff Cove, near the Fitzroy settlement.

During the 1970s, Maine State Museum officials wanted to find a locally-built Cape Horn ship for its Arts and Industries of Maine exhibit hall. In 1977, a reconnaissance team sent to the Falklands surveyed three different wrecks. Financed by National Endowment for Humanities, they chose St. Mary. According to one source, her bones suited perfectly.

In 1978 and 1979, assisted by National Maritime Historical Society, a salvage team under maritime archaeologist Peter Throckmorton, brought back pieces of St. Mary as a lasting symbol of the great role played by the state of Maine in America’s seafaring drama.

Throckmorton found her partly awash near Fitzroy and Bluff Cove settlements, eight hours by a rough jeep ride across ‘camp,’ the road-less island expanse outside Port Stanley. The site was covered with scattered remnants from ship and cargo.

As St. Mary broke up, her cargo washed ashore, including cast iron toy trains she carried in her hold. Even today, a visitor to the wreck site can find at low tide, rusty pieces of barely recognizable train parts.

The task to bring St. Mary back to Maine was an enormous logistical challenge. Royal Marine commandos under Major Nigel Willoughby helped with their camp: tents and arctic sleeping bags, primus stoves, and field rations. A private ketch visiting the islands was charted to carry equipment to the site. They made camp under some low bluffs on the beach near a raucous colony of 10,000 Gentoo penguins.

The ketch’s three-man crew also helped in cutting up the wreck, as well as preparing hot meals. One of the larger pieces was the ship’s main beam. On it, her official numbers from the Phippsburg shipyard were barely legible: 116317.

Logistics-man Eric Berryman reported squadrons of cormorants lodging among the timbers made it a challenge as they worked to cut away portions of the vessel. Homelite Corporation had donated huge chain saws to cut up the hull on predetermined lines. Their travel to and arrival at the Falklands was also quite a story.

Captain J. H. Scott of Military Sealift Command was able to get the saws as well as several barrels of silicon aboard the fleet auxiliary USNS Mirfak at Leonardo, New Jersey. That vessel annually circumnavigated South America delivering munitions to allied navies. Norman Brouwer, historian for South Street Seaport Museum, got the chainsaws to the ship just before she sailed. Captain John Arens, master of Mirfak actually waited for Brouwer to arrive. That equipment was also nearly lost overboard when Mirfak encountered heavy weather. Mirfak finally arrived at Puerto Belgrano in Argentina.

At Belgrano, the Argentine Navy helped store the equipment until naval vessel Bahía Buen Suceso made her annual run to Stanley later that season. The chain saws and spare parts eventually went by flight to Port Stanley, by way of Argentine Air Base at Comodoro Rivadavia in southern Patagonia. The silicon barrels followed aboard the Bahía Buen Suceso.

As logistics officer, Berryman quickly discovered the far south Falkland Islands had not been on regular commercial freighting trade routes for about 90 years. Ships rarely passed or stopped, making it extremely challenging to arrange return transport of St. Mary, or to privately charter any suitable vessel.

There were 10 numbered segments, each carefully measured, 40 feet by 12 feet, as to fit the museum’s designated space. Nearly 30 tons of remains were eventually recovered, 22 tons in just the hull. The largest section, most of St. Mary’s starboard side, lay flat against the beach. It was 130 feet long and 35 feet, from pin rail through the main deck.

Workers spent 10 days sawing pieces out of the hull, the entire operation spanned 20 weeks after many months of initial planning. The pieces were jacked up on to a wooden sled and laboriously dragged by tractor. They skidded across land over tussock grass for over two miles to a beach.

There, a half-mile offshore, waited the small inter-island ferry M/V Monsunen. Berryman noted the large sections mostly bounced along the bottom as they were towed out to the ferry and winched aboard. The Falkland Islands Company had agreed to use their freighter to transport the hull sections to Port Stanley.

Berryman’s job was to arrange logistics of getting the remains to Port Stanley then back to the U.S., absent any commercial transportation. He credited Throckmorton as the force of nature that successfully got the 22 tons of St. Mary to Port Stanley’s jetty. Peter Throckmorton, the Father of Underwater Archaeology, died June 1990 at his home in Newcastle, Maine, at age 61. Eric Berryman passed away in 2019.

At Port Stanley, workers crated and hoisted pieces of St. Mary aboard British Antarctic Survey vessel RRS Bransfield, bound for Southampton, England. While on her annual cruise in English waters, the Castine-based Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship State of Maine then volunteered to bring back St Mary.

Once in Southampton, the carefully tagged pieces were transferred from Bransfield to a Royal Navy landing barge under the watchful eyes of Royal Engineers. Colonel P.K.A. Todd, commander 3rd Transport Group, Royal Corps of Transport, used tank landing craft to convey St. Mary pieces from Southampton to Portsmouth, where they were transferred into lighters, then handed over to State of Maine.

State of Maine then brought St. Mary home to the U.S., 88 years after her departure. They docked in Portland, Maine and from there, the 1136th Transportation Company, 286th Supply and Service Battalion of Maine National Guard, loaded pieces onto flatbeds and trucked them up Interstate 95 to the state museum in Augusta.

Once there, St. Mary was reassembled under museum director Paul Rivard. The entire transportation effort, likely $500,000 worth, had been provided at virtually no cost. He said the project strengthened the historical ties between Maine and the Falkland Islands.

For St. Mary, her return to Maine represents an acknowledgment of her historic value. The effort was truly international, with the state of Maine, United States, Falkland Islands, Argentina and Great Britain all involved, as well as several agencies such as National Maritime Historical Society and World Ship Trust and corporations.

After much risk and numerous challenges, St. Mary arrived back in Maine. Thirty-four miles eastward on Route 3 and a bit up the coast on Route 1, the grave site of Jesse Thayer Carver sits quietly in a corner of a small-town cemetery not far from the water. The lichen-covered granite stone above his grave simply states Carver ‘Died On Board Ship St. Mary.’

There is nothing about his battle with Cape Horn and subsequent shipwreck, the risks and rewards he gambled, or his losses. High risk, high reward, challenges, victories, successes and losses, all echo down through the years of Maine’s unique maritime history.

Charles Lagerbom teaches AP US History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport. He can be contacted at clagerbom@rsu71.org. He is author of "Whaling in Maine" available through Historypress.com.