The 2002 and 2005 Core Banks Beach Wreck Survey(s) -
Including Shackleford Banks & Ocracoke Island
An Ongoing Field Survey Conducted by SIDCO in support of the
NC Underwater Archaeology Branch Beach Wreck Program and the National Park Service.
The North Carolina Outer Banks are alive with history. Though rich with a biological ecosystem unique in all the world and picturesque landscapes that rival those of the world’s greatest natural marvels, the Outer Banks have seen historic occurrences that would boggle the mind. The first European settlers, the birth of a nation, a devastating Civil War, and two world wars have all left their marks in the form of cultural deposits and historic sites all up and down the NC coast. Shipwrecks, abandoned towns and villages, military installations and forts, fishing camps and houses are just a few of the assets that are in jeopardy here. Vandalism, looting, storms, hurricanes, and time are just a few of the enemies that attack these assets everyday; yet, the very banks themselves are made up of cultural debris. Pieces of shipwrecks, abandoned cars and trucks, tree trunks washed up from theCaribbean all end up above the tide line and moving sand is trapped by the introduction of a barrier. As the sand builds up, a dune is formed. Later maritime grasses begin to grow and roots from them hold the sand in place. Eventually no evidence of the item is left as sand completely covers it.
Nearly every dune on the banks was formed by this very process and undisturbed the dune will remain covering the rich historic artifacts that created it. But storms cause overwash, plants die and their roots wither away, hurricanes and Nor’easters flood the tidal plain and move centuries of sand away, revealing the cultural time capsule below. Left unrecorded, this time capsule falls prey to the “enemies” mentioned earlier.
Surface Interval Diving Company (SIDCO) is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the preservation of historic shipwrecks and submerged sites for the express purpose of public education and display. SIDCO was founded in 1996 and has worked very closely with state, federal and local authorities to protect and preserve North Carolina ’s maritime history.
In an attempt to gather the data left at these sites, SIDCO, in cooperation with the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch, and the NC Department of Cultural Resources, has completed a field survey of the exposed sites on the Core Banks, from Cape Lookout to Portsmouth .
Recorded from these sites are measurements, fastener patterns and types, GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates, photographs, sketches, examination of structure features, and placement of a permanent NCDCR tag to help track the movements of the item due to storms, and also discourage vandalism and looting. This report will document the findings of this survey in spring of 2002, and add to an ongoing record of an overall documentation and attempt to save the data from these non-renewable resources.
Shipwreck timber, found in very high grass, behind the dune line. See photo above at right.
On April 27, 2002 , members of SIDCO assembled to accomplish the field survey of the Southern end of the Core Banks. After establishing a campsite near Alger Willis Fishing Camps, the team began a systematic survey of the area. Using ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) specially equipped with modern GPS positioning systems and UHF Two-way radio communications, the team mapped the entire Southern end of Core Banks in a two-day time period, locating seven shipwreck structures and re-examining one. The ATV’s carried two persons, a driver and a spotter. The driver operated the vehicle in the rough terrain, while the spotter watched the dunes and beach for wreck debris and maintained radio operations. Other than a few mechanical problems that were settled early, the mission was a COMPLETE success.
The wreck deposits found were anything from a single timber to an entire keel and keelson to a section of outer hull, complete with sonar transducer. The time periods ranged from early 1800’s to modern day. Often the structure still had artifacts other than structure still attached, including ballast stones, fasteners, coal, hardware, pieces of masonry, fittings and electronic equipment (modern wrecks).
Several of the structures showed signs of vandalism and attempted looting. Two had been set on fire previously, and one still had a section of polypropylene rope attached that someone had used to attempt to drag the timber down the beach. There were several old campfire sights that may have contained remains of shipwreck structure. It is our hope that the presence of NC Department of Cultural Resources tags will discourage this kind of destruction.
The NCDCR information discs or "tags", shown at top, are used to mark and identify beach wreck structures. Please be sure NEVER to remove or deface these tags.