North Carolina February 11, 2017
The Deadly History Of This North Carolina Place Is Terrifying But True
Since the 16th century, a region of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina has been deemed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Thousands of ships, crew members and captains have all met their demise in this particular spot and by the 1800s several lighthouses were constructed to help ships navigate around the deadly rocks lining the coast.
While North Carolina is home to several easy access ports, the barrier islands of the Outer Banks proved especially challenging. The intricate geography of the OBX islands completely blocking off the mainland made it difficult for ships to safely pass through. Today there's a wealth of navigation technology to assist ships, but the days of hand-drawn maps and inaccurate information led ships to their own graveyard.
Geography was an uncontrollable factor, and weather also contributed to the frequent wrecks, including terrible storms. Storms would close inlets while opening new ones; areas marked with deep water would then turn shallow. High winds and rushing water made captains and crew lose control of the ship. While geography and nature are uncontrollable factors, there was also another dangerous factor - humans.
Wreckers in the area would scavenge ships and sometimes even lure ships in. The name 'Nags Head' derives from a device used for this very feat. The wreckers even got inventive, tying lanterns around the necks of Outer Banks ponies who would then wander up and down the beach confusing incoming ships as the up-and-down motion resembled that of a vessel.
The nooks, crannies, hidden coves and harbors of the Outer Banks also provided a perfect space for pirates to wait, hide, then attack. Although many people picture pirates only attacking ships far offshore, privateers were hired by the government to destroy enemy ships. While privateers operated separately from the Navy, they were an accepted form of naval warfare from the 1500s-1800s. Spanish privateers frequently raided the North Carolina coast throughout many wars between England and Spain from the 1580s-1760s.
Record keeping of shipwrecks began in 1526, and since then, 5,000 ships have sunk in these waters. The Graveyard spans all of the North Carolina coast from Bodie Island to Nags Head and curves southward at Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. A notorious section includes Cape Point, which today is a popular destination for fishing and surfing.
Cape Point is a stretch of beach that divides Hatteras' north and south facing beaches. Its fragile location has made it a famous spot along the east coast, although it's always been regarded as a 'dangerous trap' for sailors. More than 600 shipwrecks have occurred off the shifting sandbars of Hatteras Island.
Today, you can learn more and see firsthand the deadly history at The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Pictured above is the original Fresnel lens from Cape Hatteras lighthouse. On display you'll also see photographs of famous shipwrecks and relics from the deadly history.
Today advanced technology helps seamlessly guide ships, but the Graveyard of the Atlantic still strikes occasionally.
A year ago, a cruise ship got caught in deadly 30 ft. waves with 76 MPH winds, and some passengers were even injured in the tempest.
Even the most seasoned sailors still have their fears about the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Do you have any stories to share?