Friday, April 12, 2019

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, Hatteras, North Carolina

The water off the coast of Hatteras is treacherous and bears the name Graveyard of the Atlantic. Over 600 ships wrecked there as victims of shallow shoals, storms, and war. Diamond Shoals, a bank of shifting sand ridges hidden beneath a turbulent sea off Cape Hatteras, has never promised ships a safe passage, but seafarers risked the shoals to take advantage of the north- or south-flowing currents passing nearby. Many never reached their destination. Fierce winter nor'easters and hurricanes have driven many ships aground, like the schooners Carroll A. Deering in 1921, G.A. Kohler in 1933, and the infamous Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge.

Ghost Fleet of the Outer Banks

In World War II, German submarines sand so many Allied tankers and cargo ships here that the waters earned a second sobering nickname ~~ Torpedo Junction. In the past 400 years the graveyard has claimed many lives, but island villagers have saved many. As early as the 1870s, villagers served in the U.S. Life Saving Service and staffed lighthouses built to guide mariners. When rescue attempts failed, villagers buried the dead and salvaged shipwreck remains. Few ships wreck today, but storms still uncover the ruins of old wrecks that lie along the beaches of the Outer Banks.

One of the shipwrecks was the Carroll A. Deering. In January 1921 with all sails set on its five masts the Deering was hard aground on outer Diamond Shoals. Due to the harsh seas, rescue was not able to begin until February. When the ship was finally boarded, it was discovered that the schooner had been abandoned by its crew. The ship's wheel was shattered, and the binnacle box smashed. Navigation instruments and charts, the log book, and the crew's personal belongings were missing along with the ship's two boats. In the galley, it appeared that a meal was being prepared. The ship's cats were the only living things found.

Carroll A. Deering
There is speculation as to what happened to the Deering as it made it way to Rio de Janiero. After dropping off its cargo, it stopped in Barbados for supplies, its crew and captain were at odds with each other. The Deering was eventually sighted off the coast of North Carolina. The keeper noted that the crew were "milling about" in areas of the ship that was normally off limits to crewmen. Deering was sighted that afternoon by another vessel. This vessel reported seeing no crew on deck and that the ship seemed to be steering straight for Diamond Shoals. Deering's next sighting would be by surfman Brady as she was being pounded by the surf of Diamond Shoals.

Wreckage of the Carroll A. Deering
"Davy Jones Locker"
According to Pirate lore, to be sent to "Davy Jones Locker" meant to be sentenced to death, often drowned, and sent to meet Davy Jones, an evil entity described as having horns, a tail and three rows of teeth, and living at the bottom of the sea.

Debris from the Priscilla

Debris from the Priscilla is scattered along the beach ~ August 1899. The mariner or passenger who has the misfortune to be shipwrecked is hospitably received. The bankers lend their active assistance in saving the cargo. Above, auction-goers arrive at the Priscilla public auction by shad boat, the traditional watercraft of the Carolina coast.


USS Dionysus
Commissioned in 1945 as a US Navy repair ship, USS Dionysus was assigned to the Pacific theater. It was one of hundreds of Liberty ships produced by the US Maritime Commission in World War II and assembled from standardized parts fabricated across the country. At the end of World War II, Dionysus was placed in the US Naval Reserve Fleet until the Korean War. In 1978, NC State Fisheries requested that the US Marines sink Dionysus off North Carolina as part of the artificial reef system along the coast. It is reported that a half-dozen seasick Marines and 600 pounds of C-4 were needed to accomplish the task. Dionysus was the fourth Liberty ship sunk off North Carolina since 1974 and is located about five miles south of Oregon Inlet. 

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