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Shrimp trawler breaks apart on Outer Banks in treacherous ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’

What’s left of the shrimp trawler Big John sits in the surf early Monday off Cape Point. National Park Service photo
What’s left of the shrimp trawler Big John sits in the surf early Monday off Cape Point. National Park Service photo

The shrimp trawler Big John ran ashore and broke into countless pieces early Monday along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, adding another sunken hull to the so called “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Photos show what’s left of the ship off Cape Point in the surf, and a wide debris field on the sand. The ship, based out of Wanchese, is believed to have overturned before sinking, said a press release from the National Park Service.


Rangers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore were alerted to the sinking about 5:20 a.m. Monday, and rushed to Cape Point to assist the U.S. Coast guard and Hatteras Island Rescue Squad in searching for survivors, said a NPS release.

“The vessel...was found broken apart a half mile north of Cape Hatteras National Seashore off-road vehicle ramp 49 near Frisco,” said a National Park Service statement.

“The three-person crew of the Big John were found alive and were taken by ambulance to the hospital for medical evaluations.”

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the trawler to flip and break apart, officials said.

“Due to a large debris field created by the Big John, the beach between off-road vehicle ramps 48 and 49 is temporarily closed. The debris field contains nails, wood, and other potentially hazardous objects,” said an NPS release.”

The waters off North Carolina are known as “the Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the more than 2,000 shipwrecks that rest there, including German u-boats and Civil War blockage runners, according to

Experts blame the treacherous currents off the Outer Banks.

“The warm waters of the northbound Gulf Stream meet the cold waters of the Arctic Current off Cape Hatteras at Diamond Shoals, and the entire coast is an area of shifting inlets, bays, and capes, representing a shipping hazard for both coastal and transatlantic vessels,” says NCpedia.corg.

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