The Regional Review

Volume III - No. 2

August, 1939


hull of old ship

sketch of old ship

The hulk of an old ship found last May 3 on Bodie Island within the area authorized for inclusion in the proposed Cape Hatteras National Seashore (The Regional Review, Vol. II, No. 5, p. 18), which received wide spread publicity because of conjectures that she dated from the seventeenth or even the sixteenth century, has been identified tentatively as an American vessel built some time after 1750.

A 75-page illustrated report prepared by Thor Borresen, of Colonial National Historical Park, describes in detail the appearance and condition of the storm-excavated remains, and suggests interesting possibilities concerning their date and origin. Specimens of wood, metal, china ware and ballast collected at the wreck site by Mr. Borresen and Joseph T. Holzbach, Superintendent of the Mariners' Museum of Newport News,were subjected to careful laboratory analysis but yielded no conclusive evidence from which the age of the ship might be determined. A patient study of structural features of ships laid down during the last 350 years, however, revealed a striking similarity between the architectural design of the hulk and that followed in the construction of 176 United States gunboats ordered from 1805 to 1807. On this page are a photograph of the Bodie Island ship and a draft of "Gunboat No. 5" as designed by early nineteenth century builders. Comparison of the outlines of the boats at the stern and bow, as well as the gudgeon for holding the rudder, disclosed identical features.

One of the gunboats, No. 140, exploded near Ocracoke Inlet on September 23, 1814, and, it is surmised, burned to the water's edge. The vessel uncovered on the North Carolina Banks also had been burned. "Though the writer realizes he is treading on dangerous ground in trying to assign the wreck a definite identification," said Mr. Borresen, "there are several features in these two boats which are closely enough related to tempt one."

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Date: 04-Jul-2002