A Civil War shipwreck in Oak Island appears to be one of the best-preserved blockage runners seen by researchers. It’s called an iron-hulled Civil War era steamer that was found in late February near Caswell Beach, according to CNN.
The shipwreck, which was found Feb. 27 about 350 yards into the ocean near Oak Island, is likely one of three known lost blockade runners, said Billy Ray Morris, director of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Underwater Archaeology Branch. The vessel is the first Civil War-era remains found in the area in decades.
“You can see from the sonar image that the whole lower hull is there,” Morris said. “It’s rare to get a wreck that’s this well-preserved.”
The Civil War shipwreck in Oak Island is one of three blockade runners lost in the area that haven’t been found. They include the Agnes E. Fry, Spunkie and Georgianna McCaw, according to a press release from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Dive crews will reach the Civil wreck on Wednesday, using documents from when the ships were built in England to determine which one of the blockade runners they have found.
Morris said the Civil War shipwreck is most likely the Fry, based on where it was found and the size of the vessel.
Students from the East Carolina University Maritime Studies Program will join the team as they continue gathering data on the new site as the weather permits.
As for why the Oak Island shipwreck is in such good shape, Morris said the change in dune patterns means that sand has helped prevent the Civil War vessel from wearing down over the decades.
“She was sanded over for most of the time she’s been laying on the bottom,” Morris said. “Now, the sand’s been scoured free.”
Becoming entombed in sand can greatly protect shipwrecks, according to a 1985 documenting the Cape Fear Civil War Shipwreck District for the National Register of Historic Places.
The goal of the Union blockade was to keep supplies from reaching the Confederacy through one of its most important ports and to prevent the export of cotton and other marketable items by the Southerners.
Crews on the Atlantic Surveyor, a research vessel that was conducting sonar operations in the area, located the sunk vessel. Archaeologists from N.C. Office of State Archaeology’s Underwater Archaeology Branch were joined on the boat by the Institute of International Maritime Research.
The Civil War shipwreck in Oak Island is part of a project funded by the National Park Service through the American Battlefield Protection Program. There are 27 known shipwrecks in the Cape Fear area.
“It’s the best collection of Civil War wrecks anywhere in the world,” Morris said. “… It is a tremendous assemblage.”