ShipWrecks: The Graveyard of The Atlantic
Cape Point, the intersecting stretch of beach which divides
Hatteras Island's north and south facing beaches, is known today as
the East Coast's surf fishing Mecca, attracting fishermen from all
over the world. But, the same conditions that consistently lure in
the blues, spot and drum, specifically the meeting of the artic
Labrador Current and the
Stream current, have also caused the waters off Cape Hatteras to
be a deadly trap for mariners for centuries. The shifting sandbars,
colliding waves and unpredictable currents located off Hatteras
Island earned the nickname "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for this
stretch of shore, and it is the final resting place of more than 600
The first recorded shipwreck off the North Carolina coast was in
1526 at the mouth of the
Cape Fear River. During the 1500s, the excitement of the New
World attracted a number of explorers to the treacherous waters of
in search of the rumored riches to be found at the new American
colonies. This was the beginning of Hatteras Island's reputation as
a deadly destination for ships, and over the next 400 years, this
reputation only grew.
The Civil War
During the late 1800s, when commercial shipping was enjoying a
rejuvenated business following the Civil War, the number of
shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast peaked, and the area had
gained national attention and government response.
In 1837, the steamship Home was destroyed in a hurricane
Island. One hundred people, including many prominent figures,
were lost at sea due primarily to a lack of life preservers. As a
result of this tragedy, The Steamboat Act was passed, which required
all ships to have life preservers available on board for all
The area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic generated
national attention again in 1877 when a Navy warship, Huron,
wrecked off the coast of
The lifesaving station was closed for the winter season, and because
of this lack of aid, the wreck resulted in a loss of 100 lives. Just
a few months later, even more lives were lost when a passenger ship,
Metropolis, wrecked off the coast near
Flooded with horror stories of shipwrecks off the North Carolina
coast, the government passed bills establishing year-round
lifesaving stations to be located every seven miles along the
These flagship lifesaving stations would later become the United
States Coast Guard.
But, treacherous waters alone weren't the only cause of the
innumerable shipwrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. War played
a significant role, and the German U-Boats of both World War I and
World War II which were lost to the waters off Hatteras Island are
modern reminders of the Graveyards of the Atlantic's dark history.
Depending on the tides, several of these ships can be spotted off
the shoreline in Buxton, and a number of these lost U-Boats can be
discovered and explored by the adventurous scuba diver.
Perhaps the most famous military ship that calls the Graveyard of
the Atlantic home is the USS Monitor. A relic from the Civil
War, the USS Monitor was designed by John Ericsson, one of
the most innovative engineers of the 19th Century. At the time, the
Confederate Army was gaining ground in the battle to stop the Union
Army's blockade of Southern ports, which essentially stopped all
goods and supplies from being shipped into the Southern states. The
biggest tool the Confederates had in the fight was the ironclad
Virginia, a revolutionary warship because it replaced the wood
and sail boats with a ship of iron and steam.
The USS Monitor, a 987-ton turret gunboat, left New York
for Hampton Roads, Virginia to fight against the Virginia. On
March 9, 1862, (just one day after the Virginia had sunk two
US Navy ships, the Congress and the Cumberland, killing 240 of their
crew,) the Virginia and the USS Monitor came face to
face. The ensuing battle between the two ironclad warships ended in
a stalemate, but compared to the one-sided victory the Virginia
had savored just the day before against the ironclad's predecessors,
the battle was an indication of things to come - the triumph of
industrial age warfare. And, ultimately, the USS Monitor
helped the Union keep its stranglehold on the South's ports, playing
a big role in the North's victory in the Civil War.
In late December of 1862, the USS Monitor headed south for
other missions and was caught in one of the winter storms at Cape
Hatteras. On New Year's Eve of December 1862, the USS Monitor
sank off the coast of Cape Hatteras.
The wreckage was discovered in 1974 by John G. Newton and a
survey team from Duke University. Scanning the ocean floor, The
USS Monitor was found lying just 16 miles South-Southeast of
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Soon after its discovery, the
Governor of North Carolina and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior
helped to designate the USS Monitor as a National Marine
Sanctuary and it was added to the National Register of Historic
Places. Over the past several years, NOAA has made extensive efforts
to retrieve artifacts from the USS Monitor, and work is
presently underway to recover major components of her structure and
While the USS Monitor is arguably the most recognized
battleship stranded on the ocean floor off the Cape Hatteras coast,
it certainly isn't the only one. Nearly a century after the USS
Monitor met its demise, the Graveyard of the Atlantic earned
itself a secondary nickname - Torpedo Junction.
In the late stages of World War II, the North Carolina coast was
swarming with German U-Boats, submarines that lingered off America's
Coast, and targeted innocent merchant ships that attempted to get in
and out of the Outer Banks.
The submarines were part of Adolf Hitler's plan of attack on the
American East Coast, known as Operation Paukenschlag, or "Drumroll."
The strategy, originated by Rear-Admiral Karl Donitz, was similar to
the Union Army's own Civil War plan to stop merchant ships from
landing on East Coast ports, essentially blocking the coastal
commerce and the arrival of supplies. Initially, only five U-Boats
were sent to the coast, but their presence was detrimental to the
East Coast and the plan was, at first, tremendously successful.
The U-Boats were both ruthless and meticulous. Despite the best
efforts of merchant ships to avoid the onslaught of attack by
zigzagging towards shore to avoid the torpedoes, the U-Boats brought
down 397 merchant ships from January to June of 1942. The area off
Cape Hatteras was a popular spot for the U-Boat commanders, as it
was a central point for merchant ships, and the area soon became
known as Torpedo Junction.
Many innocent sips were targeted, such as the Buarque, a
Brazilian ship that carried both cargo and passengers and was en
route to New York. Because of its Brazilian flags and its status as
a neutral country, the ship's crew was under the assumption that
they would not be a target for the German U-Boats, but they were
A German U-Boat, the U-432, started circling the passenger
ship before it seemingly disappeared, but despite the initial
appearance that the Buarque was safe from attack, the U-432
ultimately launched its torpedoes, sending the Buarque to the
bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of Kill Devil Hills.
Miraculously, and thanks to the efforts of the Coast Guard, 84 of
the 85 people on board were rescued. Out of the wreckage, only one
person had died.
Avoiding the U-Boats was an impossible feat, as discovered by the
captain and crew of the City of Atlanta, a cargo ship that
was headed for Savannah from New York carrying a variety of goods
including food, leather, wool, brass, soap and three cases of
whiskey. Three days before they left, it was reported that the
tanker Norness, one of the first casualties of the U-Boat
attacks, was torpedoed and destroyed just south of Mantauk, New
York. As a result, the captain directed the crew of the City of
Atlanta to hug the shoreline and dim the navigation lights to
avoid the U-Boats' attention.
Unfortunately, the strategy did not work and on January 19, 1942,
at 2:12 a.m., the City of Atlanta was struck on the portside
by a torpedo. Five survivors were picked up by the freighter
Seatrain Texas hours after the City of the Atlanta went
into the ocean, but the remaining 42 crew members had died.
The same boat that destroyed the City of Atlanta, the
U-123, quickly found another easy target just two days later,
the Ciltvaira, which was slowly moving down the coast. The
Ciltvaira was also a cargo ship and was carrying a load of paper
from Norfolk, to Savannah, Georgia, when it was struck by a torpedo
on the portside at 5:00 a.m. Badly wounded but still afloat, several
ships including the Brazilian freighter Bury and the tanker
Socony Vacuum attempted to tow the Ciltvaira, but were
unable to do so, and instead, picked up the surviving crew members.
The Ciltvaira sank off the coast of the Outer Banks, in
between the villages of
After months of similar and widely publicized stories of innocent
ships being attacked, at last the dire situation of the U-Boat
attacks was addressed. The United States Navy, with British
assistance, began a campaign to rid the North Carolina coast of the
German submarines. Long-range aircraft patrols were implemented, a
coastal convoy system was initiated and more anti-submarine vessels
A few of the U-Boats were sunk, including the U-352 off
the coast of Cape Lookout, and by late 1942, Admiral Donitz withdrew
his submarines from the East Coast. Even though a few merchant ships
were occasionally targeted and destroyed throughout the rest of the
war, the reign of Torpedo Junction was essentially over.
U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard
Fighting against both the treacherous waters off Cape Hatteras as
well as the numerous causalities of warfare were the local
lifesaving stations and later Coast Guard stations of North
In 1874, in response to the shipwrecks that plagued the Graveyard
of the Atlantic, the first seven lifesaving stations were built
along the North Carolina Coast. As pioneers of The Lifesaving
Service, the early recruits, often local residents who were familiar
with the treacherous waters and how to navigate them, turned the
ragtag lifesaving stations into flagship operations. The fearless
crews of the early lifesaving stations provided a number of tales of
heroism that are still told and re-told amongst locals today.
One of the most adventurous lifesaving endeavors took place in
December of 1884. The cargo ship Ephraim Williams was headed
home to Savannah, Georgia from Providence, Rhode Island with a
supply of pine lumber when it was tangled in the rough weather and
waters off Cape Hatteras and became waterlogged. The crews of the
Cape Hatteras, Durant's (Hatteras) Creed's Hill and Big Kinnakeet
(Avon) Lifesaving Stations saw the ship stranded but was unable to
help. The weather, which the experienced surfmen claimed was the
worst they had ever seen, kept the crews on alert on the beach,
waiting for a sign from the sinking ship that there were survivors
on board. During the night, the boat floated 7 miles northeast,
across from the Big Kinnakeet Station. At 10:30 a.m. the men from
the Hatteras Island lifesaving stations finally saw a sign- a flag
raised to half mast to indicate a distress signal. Benjamin B.
Dailey, leader of the Cape Hatteras Lifesaving Station and his crew
immediately launched their boat, and the crew of Big Kinnakeet
Lifesaving Station soon followed.
Few people on shore thought the rescue would be successful, and
most believed the crews that foolishly rushed out to save the
survivors would never return. Dailey's crew maneuvered through the
inner bar and the more treacherous outer bar, timing their rowboat
strokes to drift past the enormous breaking waves. The Big Kinnakeet
crew was unable to get through, and waited to see if Dailey could
make it to the floundering Ephraim Williams. Indeed, the crew
was able to pull close enough to the waterlogged ship to toss a line
to the captain and rescue the men one by one. Dailey's boat, with 16
people on board, nine of which were survivors from the Ephraim
Williams, cautiously but successfully made their way back to
shore. The rescue of the nine men, from the time the Ephraim
Williams was spotted, had taken 90 hours.
On August 17, 1899, the captain and crew of the schooner
Robert W. Casey were driven ashore by an east-northeast
hurricane with very high surf and tide. The crew of the Little
Kinnakeet Station, which is still visible from NC Highway 12 between
Avon and Salvo, immediately headed to the beach and patiently waited
for their chance to row out to the ship to bring the stranded crew
ashore. All seven men aboard the boat were rescued and brought back
to the station for food, clothing and supplies, and the captain and
crew of the Robert W. Casey submitted a letter to the U.S.
Lifesaving Service. After explaining the circumstances of their
shipwreck, the captain and crew wrote the following:
"We also wish to say that these noble, gallant, and heroic
life-savers do most dreadfully suffer hardships of life to save,
protect and take care of sailors who may be cast into their care.
There was nothing left undone by the acting keeper and crew of the
above-named station. They performed their duties most nobly."
One of the most famous stations was
Rodanthe village. Having undergone a complete renovation, it is
also one of the most popular attractions on Hatteras Island, drawing
thousands of visitors every year. One of the most famous stories
originating from this station was the rescue of the crew of the
British tanker, the Mirlo, which was hit by torpedoes off the
coast of the
Banks by a German U-Boat.
On August 16, 1918, at 4:30 p.m., the
The Chicamacomico Life Saving Station lookout reported seeing a
huge spray of water shoot into the air, indicating that the ship had
been hit. By 5:00 p.m., the crew of the Chicamacomico Station was
launching a surfboat, heading out to the burning wreckage. The water
was calm enough to swim to the wreckage, but the ocean was covered
with burning oil, black smoke and flames. The lifesaving crew
spotted six men clinging to a rowboat. Later, the survivors reported
that they had to duck under water frequently to save themselves from
being burned to death. The crew rescued the six men and looked for
the other five men who had been aboard the Mirlo, but they
were nowhere to be found, and the flames made an extensive search
By 9:00 p.m., the crew and the survivors of the Mirlo had
made it safely back to shore. The Chicamacomico crew eventually
received 6 Crosses of Honor, out of 11 Crosses of Honor ever given.
The early lifesaving stations eventually became the United States
Coast Guard, and while all of the original stations are no longer in
use, having been abandoned, destroyed or preserved by the National
Park Service and other non-profit groups, the U.S. Coast Guard still
patrols area waters and has several stations located along the North
Carolina Coast. As recently as May 2007, when an Outer Banks
Nor'easter threatened three sailboats traveling down the coastline
of the Outer Banks, the Coast Guard continuously performs rescues
along the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Because of its deadly history, the Graveyard of the Atlantic has
become a popular locale for scuba divers, and adventurous visitors
to the Outer Banks can try their hand at wreck diving for treasures
hidden and buried in the Graveyard.
The list of discoveries one can find diving around the numerous
wrecks is endless. Many scuba divers are attracted to the Graveyard
of the Atlantic simply for photos of the famous shipwrecks that can
only be spotted underwater. Other divers are in search of artifacts
from the sunken warships such as the recently recovered USS
Monitor relics. Still others are drawn by the possibility of
lost and abandoned goods, dating back to the blockade runners of the
Civil War. And though seldom discovered, the prospect of long buried
Spanish gold and pirate "treasure" draws ambitious scuba divers
hoping to strike it rich.
From the novice diver to the expert, there are a number of
popular wrecks to explore that are conducive to every skill level
The Indra is a former landing craft repair ship that was
sunk as part of an artificial reef program very recently in 1992.
The ship sits upright and is intact in 65 feet of water with the
upper decks rising to 35 feet. The wreck is close to shore and is
one of the easiest to reach, making it an ideal wreck for beginners
and even first time divers.
For intermediate divers who are in search of obtaining some good
photographs, the Papoose is an excellent wreck to explore. A
tanker that was blown apart by a German U-Boat torpedo in 1942, the
Papoose was broken in two pieces and lies upside down in 120 feet of
water. This is a popular diver destination because of the groups of
sand tiger sharks that flock to this wreck. Relatively indifferent
to intruding divers, the swarms of sharks provide some exciting
For a slightly bigger challenge, divers head to the Huron.
The Huron was on its way to Havana, Cuba when it ran aground
on the shoals off the coast of
in 1877. One of the early iron-hulled stem-and-sail ships, the
Huron is now a Historic Shipwreck Preserve. Even though it's
located in just 20 feet of water, the cold northern currents and
heavy surf zone make it an unsafe dive for beginners.
Adventurous divers can also explore the first German submarine
that sank in American waters, the U-85, also known as the
Wild Boar. Shattered at the ocean floor, this wreck is covered
with coral and algae and rests in 100 feet of cool water and strong
currents, with visibility of only 30 feet.
Finally, for advanced divers who are not afraid of a challenge,
the U-352 is a popular but dangerous wreck. Sunk by the Coast
Guard Cutter Icarus in 1942, this German U-Boat lies in 115
feet if water, attracting bait fish hiding from larger predators.
Even if you don't dive, you can still explore the shipwrecks off
the North Carolina coast without stepping into the water. Many
wrecks are visible from the sandy beaches, depending on the tides.
The Laura A. Barnes can be seen off NC Highway 12 at Coquina
Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Just north of Laura A.
Barnes, the famous Huron can often be spotted from the
Nags Head Fishing Pier in
Further south, near the
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island, you will
find the Stovepipe Hat wreck, and near
Isle on the
Crystal Coast, you can discover the Iron Steamer offshore
at the old Iron Steamer Pier location.
Causes of Shipwrecks
What makes these waters a magnet for shipwrecks, giving the area
off Cape Hatteras the well-deserved nickname of Graveyard of the
Atlantic? Essentially, it's the
Diamond Shoals. Stretching 14 miles into the Atlantic off the
Buxton, the shoals are shifting sandbars with accompanying
shifting currents. With no significant natural landmarks, ships had
to get close to shore to get their bearings, making it easy for them
to succumb to the pounding currents and get smashed to pieces, or
run aground on a sandbar, stranded in the middle of the ocean. As a
result, the first
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was erected in 1803 as a guide for
ships that ventured too close to the dark shores of Cape Hatteras.
At only 90 feet high, the lighthouse did little to protect
shipwrecks, so the second (and existing) lighthouse went into
operation in 1870. At a towering 208 feet,
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse remains the tallest lighthouse in
In addition to the shifting sandbars and barely visible
shoreline, the two primary currents that hug the East Coast, the
Labrador Current and the crystal clear, warm
Stream Current, meet in the middle of Hatteras Island, creating
ideal conditions for wild, rough seas. Compounding the equation is
the frequent joining of high and low pressure systems forming from
the combination of warm and cold waters, making conditions ripe for
treacherous weather systems to form and thrive in these waters.
In addition, the occasional Nor'easter, tropical storm or
hurricane which has a tendency to brush the
Outer Banks, has
always caused problems for the most experienced of sailors. In fact,
these naturally treacherous conditions were the root cause for many
of the shipwrecks that comprise the Graveyard of the Atlantic. One
shipwreck that was devastated by a
hurricane can still be spotted today in the surf and in the sand
just north of Salvo. The George A. Kohler was a large
schooner that was grounded by a hurricane in 1933. This ship sat on
the beach for a decade before it was salvaged for its iron during
World War II.
One of the
Banks most recent shipwrecks, the Lois Joyce, was caught
in a December Nor'easter. A 100-foot commercial fishing trawler, the
Lois Joyce became lost in 1981 while attempting to enter
Oregon Inlet. Though the crew was rescued by a Coast Guard
helicopter, the $1,000,000 vessel was destroyed. The wreck is
located on the northern ocean side hook at the mouth of Oregon
Inlet, and can still be seen, particularly at low tide.
Pirates and the Outer Banks
Obviously, warfare played another significant role in making
these waters so dangerous, but another threat, and another deadly
hindrance to sailors who braved the Graveyard of the Atlantic,
lingered off the coast of North Carolina for hundreds of years.
Pirates have laid claim to the waters off the Outer Banks
coastline for centuries because of the intertwining barrier islands
that could hide them from authority and allow them to sneak upon
unsuspecting ships. The most recognized pirate, Edward Teach, better
Blackbeard, loved coastal North Carolina and considered Bath,
North Carolina his home out of the water. Supposedly semi-retired,
Blackbeard met his demise off
Island on November 22, 1718, after being lured into battle by a
Many locals claim that
Island got its name from Blackbeard himself on this fateful day,
as eager for the morning to arrive so he could start the battle
against the British ship, Blackbeard was heard yelling "O, cock
crow! O, cock crow!" Also according to legend, even though
Blackbeard lost, he kept fighting after being shot, stabbed and
slashed across the throat, until he died while cocking a pistol.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Today
Today, however, the
Diamond Shoals and the Graveyard of the Atlantic isn't as
treacherous to modern sailors. Obviously, World War I and World War
II provided the Graveyard of the Atlantic with some of its most
notorious causalities, but as the 20th Century stretched on,
technology and lifesaving advancements helped prevent further
casualties along North Carolina's
Weather tracking advancements allow meteorologists to predict
hurricanes and storms days in advance, and tracking systems which
are standard on boats, like GPS devices, allow sailors to monitor
the depth of the water and the coastline, avoiding the risk of
running aground on the sandbars of Diamond Shoals.
In addition, the necessity of the small merchant ships that
swarmed along the coast in the 1700s and 1800s is no longer needed,
and the merchant ships and maritime commerce has declined. While the
introduction of international trading and international seafood
supply has been a blow to local fishermen, it has also assisted in
the declining number of sailors who have to travel through the
waters of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. In fact, the majority of
modern boats that trickle through the
Diamond Shoals are privately owned pleasure boats, such as
yachts and sailboats that are meandering down the coast or taking a
diversion from the neighboring Intracoastal Waterway.
Ghosts and Their Ships
Today, years after the shipwrecks occurred, locals still chat
about ghostly survivors who can be still be seen drifting along the
Outer Banks. Even
visitors have said that they have spotted apparitions from the
Graveyard of the Atlantic, such as the Grey Man of
a shipwreck "survivor" who wanders the beach before storms and warns
passerbys of impending danger.
But perhaps the most famous ghost ship of all is the Carroll
A. Deering. Built in Maine in 1919 by the G.G. Deering company,
which always used a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses to christen
their ships - never champagne. After replacing the original ailing
captain, Captain Merritt, the Carroll A. Deering set sail
under the command of Captain Willis T. Wormell from Portland Maine
on to Rio DiGenero on December 8, 1920.
Returning from Rio, the Carroll A. Deering was spotted by
the Cape Lookout Lightship, sailing at 5mph. According to the
lookout, "A man on board other than the captain, hailed the
lightship and reported that the vessel had lost both anchors while
riding out the gale south of
Cape Fear, and asked to be reported to its owners." The crewman
didn't speak, act, or look like an officer, being tall, thin, and
with reddish hair, and the lookout thought this was unusual.
Nevertheless, the vessel was reported in.
Five days later, on January 25, the following report was made by
Captain Henry Johnson of the SS Lake Elon:
"In connection with the stranding of the American schooner
Carroll A. Deering on North Carolina coast, January 31st, 1921. I
can report that while bound from Sagua La Grande, Cuba, toward
Baltimore on January 30th, 1921, about 3:30 p.m. we sighted a
five-masted schooner about two points on our starboard bow. The wind
was S.W. moderate and she had all sails set and steering about NNW
making about seven miles. We passed her about 5:45 p.m. about
one-half mile off our port side. We were then about twenty-five
miles S.W. true from the Diamond Shoals Light Vessel. From the
description of the Carol A. Deering, we think that this schooner was
her but we could not read her name, there was nothing irregular to
be seen on board this vessel but she was steering a peculiar course.
She appeared to be steering for Cape Hatteras. We sighted Diamond
Shoals Light Vessel about 7 p.m. and passed it at 8:32 p.m. The
lookout on the schooner should have sighted Cape Hatteras Light,
also the Light Ship at Diamond Shoal a little later than we did but
in plenty time to avoid going on shore as the weather was clear and
cloudy with good visibility. There was a couple of more ships in the
vicinity steering a course parallel with us which should have
convinced the Captain of the schooner that he was steering a wrong
On January 31, Surfman C.P. Brady of the Cape Hatteras Coast
Guard Station spotted the Carol A. Deering stranded on a
sandbar along the Diamond Shoals, and battered by the breaking
waves. He and his crew paddled to the wreck as quickly as possible,
but once they arrived at the ship, it was deserted. All of the
lifeboats were gone, and the ladder was thrown over the side as an
indication that the crew had tried to leave, but they were never
On February 5, after days of treacherous waters, local lifesaving
crews were able to board the ship and what they found was peculiar.
There was no sign of personal belongings of the officers or the crew
and the ship's key navigational equipment and some papers were
missing. The ship's anchors were missing and red lights had been run
up the mast. Yet food in the galley appeared to be laid out in
preparation for a meal. Three different sets of boots were found in
the captain's cabin and the spare bed appeared to have been slept
in. The handwriting on the ship's map appeared to have changed on
January 23rd and the steering gear was disabled with charts
scattered about the master's quarters. And, the only living soul
that remained aboard the Carroll A. Deering was the ship's
While theories abound as to the fate of the crew, the main three
being that there was a mutiny, the crew were victims of piracy, or
that the ship was simply abandoned, historians and government
agencies alike still struggle to figure out what happened to the
crew of the mysterious "ghost ship," the Carroll A Deering.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
In memory of the hundreds of shipwrecks and sailors that were
lost along the
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum was constructed in
Village and opened its doors to the public in 2000. Shaped like
an ark, with timbers reminiscent of the shipwrecks spotted offshore,
the 4,000 square foot museum is a public, non-profit, educational
institution. According to its statement of purpose, the museum is
dedicated to the preservation, advancement and presentation of the
maritime history and shipwrecks of the North Carolina
Outer Banks from
the earliest periods of exploration and colonization to the present
Exhibits are generally focused on a single wreck or event, such
as the Billy Mitchell bombing or the U-85, the first U-boat
sunk during WWII. In addition, many renowned authors and historians
visit the museum to give lectures and lead educational sessions.
Local historians, such as Danny Couch, owner of
Hatteras Tours and President of the Board of the
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, often make appearances for
both historical lectures and local storytelling. The website offers
a comprehensive list of upcoming lectures and special sessions for
to visit the Museum's website, which offers a
comprehensive list of upcoming lectures and special sessions for the
public, as well as information about the museum's current showcased
exhibits and stories.
The Dark History of The Graveyard of the Atlantic
But real or imaginary, historical or plain old local legend, the
Graveyard of the Atlantic is notorious for spurring tales of
heroism, terror, and unimaginable dangers at sea. For hundreds of
years, it has both captivated and terrified sailors from all over
the world, and serves as a deadly reminder of the East Coast's
turbulent maritime history.
While modern visitors to the
Outer Banks won't
Diamond Shoals as their predecessors did, the shipwrecks peeking
out of the ocean and the rough currents that consistently bring in
the big catch of the day will always be around to tell visitors and
locals of the dark reputation and history of the Graveyard of the
A Must See Shipwreck In Corolla
The Outer Banks is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic,
with shipwrecks scattered along both the beaches and on the
ocean’s floor. This week we came across a shipwreck on the
beach in Corolla that is easy to get to and amazing to see.
You can visit this shipwreck by driving North on Ocean Trail
towards Timbuck II. As you reach the
Restaurant and Food Lion, turn right on Albacore Street.
Go to the end of Albacore and find a place to park.
There is no public parking, but you can probably get away with
parking on the side of the street for a few minutes. You
can also park in the Food Lion parking lot and walk down
Albacore, as the shipwreck is behind the Food Lion shopping
Once you are on the beach, look up and down the dune line
until you see the ribs of the ship. As far as I know, this ship
is of unknown origin and has yet to be identified.
A local restaurant owner found coins near this wreck.
Furthermore, people have found musket balls at the shipwreck
site using metal detectors.
When you are visiting Corolla in the Outer Banks, this
shipwreck is a must see for those seeking a bit of adventure.
It is a bit of history just at the edge of the sand dunes behind
Food Lion – and who knows, perhaps you may find treasure!
If you visit this shipwreck or are aware of its origins, your
comment is especially welcome!
Are Pirates Still Roaming The Outer Banks?
Visitors to the Outer Banks are often fascinated by the
history of piracy that surrounds these barrier islands.
Bluebeard and Blackbeard both hid out along the Outer Banks
and legends still abound about buried treasure that has
never been discovered. These days, although stereotypical
peg-leg, patch-eyed pirates no longer sail the seas off the
North Carolina coast, every now and then something happens
on these remote islands that makes us wonder whether pirates
of old left more than buried treasure on these barrier
for example the saga of the Gypsy Dane, a 50-foot,
double-masted sailboat that got caught in the surf off
Hatteras Island two weeks ago and washed ashore. True to
their tradition, Outer Bankers rushed to the rescue. Owner
of the boat, Yves R. Oger, of Toronto, Canada, was safely
assisted from the distressed vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard,
the National Park Service, and Hatteras Island Rescue Squad.
Volunteers with the Avon Volunteer Fire Department cooked
him dinner and allowed him to take a hot shower. One local
business owner even let Oger use their Jeep, allowing him to
sleep on the beach in front of his boat where he could keep
an eye on it.
Because the boat was sitting upright and appeared to be
undamaged, with only its keel buried in the sand, a marine
towing service in Hatteras attempted to move the boat using
a system of anchors and winches at high tide. When that
didn’t work, they tried to turn the
boat sideways and tow it out to sea. Still the boat
didn’t budge. Next, Oger contacted a local dredging company
to attempt to free the boat by digging a trench around the
Before the dredging operation began, Oger met Murray
Clark (“Frisco Mo” to locals) who agreed to dig the boat out
for less money, so Oger canceled his arrangements with the
dredging company. But with another Nor’easter on the way,
those rescue attempts had to be put on hold. By the time the
storm passed, the Gypsy Dane was lying on her side with
several cracks in her hull.
The Gypsy Dane, beached on the
beaches of the Outer Banks, one mile south of the Avon
Pier. Both photos courtesy of Don Bowers and Island
It was clear that the boat was no longer sea worthy.
That’s when the National Park Service intervened. Worried
that the boat would begin to break apart, becoming a hazard
for beach goers and a potential cleanup expense, Oger was
given an ultimatum: move the boat or the Park Service would
do it for him.
Another islander, Buxton resident Barry Crum,
subsequently contacted Steve Steiner, a licensed house mover
who happened to be working on Hatteras Island, and told him
about the boat. Steiner assessed the situation and provided
Oger with a bid to move it. When Oger declined, saying he
couldn’t afford the fee, Steiner agreed to move the boat in
exchange for ownership. Last Sunday morning, Oger signed the
boat over to Steiner, and the extraction process began. It
took all day and well into the evening, but the boat was
eventually freed and the next day the Gypsy Dane traveled to
her new home, Steve Crum’s stables in Buxton, where Steiner
said he would start taking bids on the boat.
God bless the neighborly traditions of the Outer Banks