Shipwrecks have many causes. Three of the most common are human error, “acts of god” and technological failure (although in the final analysis human error/negligence/hubris is usually at the heart of things). Rarely, however, is negligence and technological failure so clearly linked as in the wreck of the schooner Carroll off Barnegat, New Jersey, in 1830.
The following blurp was published in New York City’s New York Spectator on May 30, 1839.
Schr Carroll, [Capt.] Carson, of Great Egg Harbor [New Jersey], from Newport [Rhode Island] bound to Richmond [Virginia], got ashore on Wednesday night, at Barnegat, in consequence of the compass having been improperly placed too near a stove pipe. She is high and dry, and will probably be saved.
A fuller account appeared five days later in Augusta, Maine’s The Age.
Vessel Ashore.–The Schooner Carroll, of Egg Harbor, Capt. Carson, is on Barnegat Beach. She was from Newport, bound to Richmond, and actually went ashore in consequence of a stove pipe. It was placed so near the binnacle as to make the needle of the compass vary three points; and lead the helmsman on Wednesday night to believe he was heading S.E., which would have carried him clear. Instead of that course he was laying S. by E., and consequently plumped the schooner on the beach. All the science of the wreckers and crew was unable to unravel the phenomenon, till the agents of the underwriters, James Bergen Esq., pointed out the mystery. [New Bedford Reg.
The trail runs dry with that story (note: it appeared in several New York and Rhode Island newspapers). But I assume the “science of the wreckers” proved more adept at salvaging the Carroll than determining the cause of its wrecking.