Rough seas dislodge Duck ship wreckage

By on March 22, 2013

Wreckage being secured. (Nathan Richards)

Wreckage being secured. (Nathan Richards)

Rough seas churned up more than just big waves last week when a large portion of a shipwreck was uncovered in Duck.

A section of its bow broke away, drifted about 200 yards south, then came ashore again.

Experts believe the shipwreck, originally excavated in 2010, is likely part of the Momie T., a 475-ton American schooner that went down in Caffey’s Inlet in 1920.

Nathan Richards, head of the Maritime Heritage Program at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, said the wreck is officially named by the state Underwater Archeology Branch as 159 Buffel Head Road due to its location near a house at the site.

The state acts as a steward of shipwrecks when they are discovered along the North Carolina coastline. By law, shipwrecks are property of the state.

“The shipwreck is a good fit for the remains of the Momie T.,” Richards said. “I’m not saying it is, but it’s a very good candidate.”

The churning seas split the large chunk of bow in two when the dune was undermined during recent storms, he said. “Both pieces are on the beach now, but are in separate places.

The wreckage is likely part of the Momie T., a 475-ton American schooner that went down in Caffey’s Inlet in 1920. (Nathan Richards)

The wreckage is likely part of the Momie T., a 475-ton schooner that went down in 1920. (Nathan Richards)

Richards said he pinned the wreckage to the seabed last week by affixing the wreck to metal fence posts embedded into the sand. The move, he said, serves only as a temporary measure. Richards said the state often looks to either stabilize the wreck to lessen the amount of deterioration or remove it.

“We wanted to take action until the powers that be did something, either by removing it, burying it or if there is funding, conserving it in some way.”

He said safety is first and foremost in handling the wreckage and said floating sections of shipwreck can pose a danger. Richards said the second issue is protecting the wreckage from further deterioration.

“We are uncertain what will happen with the material in the long run, but we are trying to look into what the options are,” he said. “I’m in the process of researching in situ conservation and management options and hope to be able to talk to the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Branch and provide some assistance to the Town of Duck.”

State officials have said in the past that with lack of funding, the protocol has been to have shipwrecks stay put unless they pose a danger.

Originally called the George F. Scannell, the Momie T. was built in 1904 in Mystic, Conn. The single-decked wooden boat was constructed of oak, chestnut and pitch pine. It had four masts, an elliptic stern and billet head.

According to the excavation report in 2010, the location of Momie T. when it sank is evidence that it could be the 159 Buffel Head wreck. It has not been confirmed, however, because many of the timbers from the wreck match the size of numerous schooners from that era.

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March 25, 2013 9:19 am

I wonder once an item has been declared an “Archaeological resource”, does that title, with it’s intended protections, follow it wherever it goes in nature ?


March 24, 2013 5:28 pm

Mean high tide, not low, which based on that picture the wreck seems to be within.


March 24, 2013 8:56 am

remanants of shipwrecks laying on the beach, above the mean low tide line, are not on state property.


March 23, 2013 1:19 pm

GS 70-15 provides:

GS 70-12 defines an archaeological resource as:

“Archaeological resource” means any material remains of past human life or activities which are at least 50 years old and which are of archaeological interest”

Since the wreck is more than 50 years old and on state property, these sections seem to prohibit salvage without a permit. Now, if it washed off of state property onto private property, I suppose that would be a different matter.

There is another section on shipwrecks that does only apply to underwater shipwrecks, that is GS 121-22:


March 22, 2013 8:06 pm

Incidentally, a lot of people have known about this particular being on the Duck beach for many, many years. It’s not really new news…


March 22, 2013 8:04 pm

I am 99% sure that the state law that protects shipwreck remains only pertains to wrecks lying under the ocean and inland waterways, not remains strewn along our beaches. Accordingly, I think the Town of Duck and the archaeologists are blowing in the wind by trying to keep anyone away from the wreck. JMO.

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