MA MA - Nomans Land (Chilmark), UnkMal pre-60, skeletal remains tangled in lobster pots, Aug'22


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Jul 21, 2021
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NamUs #UP96490, Mass. OCME #2022-12160

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)

Nomans Land (Massachusetts) - Wikipedia

Not much public information about this person. Skeletal remains, weighing about 22lb/10kg and with no clothing, were found snagged by lobster traps on Nomans Land, a small island just southwest of Martha's Vineyard on August 25, 2022. Namus lists them as male, approximately 5'6-5'9/167-175cm and possibly of White/European-American, Black/African-American, Asian-American, or American Indian/Alaska Native heritage. I can't find any news articles about them. The Massachusetts OCME appears to only post publicly about its unidentified decedent cases on Namus; the OCME site doesn't provide any more info beyond links for requesting public records.

Based on the location and manner of discovery, I would guess this person was lost at sea rather than died on the island. Access to Nomans Land (and its immediate vicinity) is strictly banned due to it being a National Wildlife Refuge...and also being covered in undetonated explosives. The island was used as a military bombing range from WW2 to the mid-1990s. It would be extremely difficult to land on the island and spend time there without detection or injury. Given that difficulty, and the fact that these remains were found tangled in lobster traps, I'm almost certain they were washed ashore. The island is also not downstream of any rivers that would bring bodies from far away; however, the cliffs of Gay Head, in the town of Aquinnah, are about five miles/eight kilometers away and could be a suicide spot.

A potential identity for these remains could be a publicly-unnamed fisherman who went missing nearby a few weeks before. He was a 54-year-old deckhand on the FV Susan Rose, which was passing Nomans Land on the night of June 30th/July 1st on its way to New Bedford ~15 miles/24km away, when he went overboard around 1 AM. Coast Guard helicopters and cutters searched but couldn't find him. (the ship was a trawler, not a lobster boat as far as I can tell, but the traps may be unrelated) However, the decomposition seems a bit advanced for less than two months in the water.

May the deceased and the missing rest easy.
Water temps off of Chilmark during the weeks the man went overboard were recorded as ranging from a low of 66.2 in July up to 74.7 in August…
While these are not tropical temps by any means, this article states that it could be possible for a drowning victim to be completely or largely skeletonized after a few weeks.
MOO: I believe that is highly probable that these are the remains of the unfortunate deckhand from the FV Susan Rose, and I wish peace and solace to his family and friends.

I’m not sure there has been an ID. His NamUs is still up. is there a reason you posted this man’s obituary? Thanks.
It might take a long time. For whatever reason, Mass. OCME often leaves cases up on NamUs even when they're identified. Most of the MA UIDs from the past few years were cases where the deceased was literally found at home with ID present. I found obituaries for some of them, but they still aren't moved to Unclaimed. It's probably a quirk of whatever documentation system they use there. (Also, take this with a grain of salt, but even before the pandemic there were bureaucratic issues with the state's unclaimed decedent program)

Just offering info on a potential ID. covered this for my local newspaper last summer. I’d love to be able to officially confirm
If you're still with the paper, would you be able to contact the OCME about this man and put a short article out? I'm not sure if I can post the phone number here, but the contacts page for the unidentified body shows the number for the OCME office in Boston. His Unidentified case number is 2022-12160.

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