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What’s to become of haunting new shipwreck lodged in sands off NC’s Outer Banks?

Whats to become of the rigging from a sunken trawler in the Graveyard of the Atlantic? Cape Hatteras National Seashore photo
Whats to become of the rigging from a sunken trawler in the Graveyard of the Atlantic? Cape Hatteras National Seashore photo

Visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore this week have been given a concrete reminder of why the coast off North Carolina is called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Locked in the sand off Cape Point is the haunting mast-like rigging of the trawler Big John, which mysteriously flipped over Monday and broke apart, spreading hazardous wreckage debris for a mile. Three crewman survived.

The debris on the beach has been removed, but the tough-to-reach rigging remains offshore days later, looking like the foundered brigantine.

What’s to become of it?

A fishing ship broke apart in the Outer Banks on February 4, spreading debris for more than mile on beaches at Cape Point. Seventy volunteers showed up the next day to pick up parts of the shrimp trawler Big John.

The National Park Service told the Charlotte Observer Friday that it has decided not to leave the wreckage as a curiosity piece for tourists visiting Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

“The remaining parts of this particular shipwreck are scheduled to be removed from the beach by (Friday) afternoon,” Cape Hatteras spokesman Mike Barber told the Observer.

A company out of Beaufort was hired to remove the rigging and take it away.

Barber didn’t say where the wreckage would end up, but the ocean off the Outer Banks is notorious for being a final resting place for more than 2,000 shipwrecks. Bulldozers were being used to haul the wreckage off, according to photos sent from the park service.

In some areas, blockade runners from the Civil War and retired World War II troop transport ships can actually be seen sticking out of the water at low tide.

In others cases, century-old shipwrecks are revealed when storms peal away beach sands, revealing old schooners ships buried underneath.

The “unusually large number of shipwrecks” is due to Cape Hatters’ location at a spot where warm Gulf Stream waters collide with the Arctic Current, explains NCPedia.org. The result is a treacherous spot where sands constantly shift and ships can easily run aground, says the site.

Included in some of the shipwrecks is treasure waiting to be found.

Over the past two years, the shipwreck exploration groups Blue Water Ventures International and Endurance Exploration Group have found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold coins from two wrecks off the Carolinas.

A 2,400-square-foot home on the Outer Banks is crumbling into the ocean near the Rodanthe Pier. Video shows part of the home's support structure being torn away by the waves. Video by Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue

A stash of gold coins was called the latest bit of proof that a shipwreck 40-plus miles off the North Carolina coast is that of the steamship Pulaski, which took half its wealthy passengers to the bottom of the Atlantic in 1838.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
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