The Outer Banks of North Carolina has a rich maritime history. Of this history, an estimated total of 2000 shipwrecks have happened in the area. Because of this, the coastal region with the remains of the sunk ships is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The wrecks happened due to war, piracy and weather. They were often fatal due to the scarcity of life-saving stations.
“In this area, the warm waters of the northbound Gulf Stream meet the cold waters of the Arctic Current. The entire coast is an area of shifting inlets, bays and capes. This is a shipping hazard for both coastal and transatlantic vessels. The area has been on close watch by US maritime organizations for over 200 years.” Amy Dunford, Writer. January 15, 2019.
Image by Harper's Magazine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum was created to preserve the history of all the sunk ships. The maritime museum is a branch of the North Carolina Museum of History. It is on the Southern part of Hatteras Island, in Hatteras Village. This location is across from the Atlantic Ocean, an area known as The Graveyard of the Atlantic. The museum opened its doors in 2002.
In 2008, the museum was recognized as a Regional State History Museum. It received inclusion to the National Carolina State Museum System.
The building is a state-of-the-art structure that stands at 18.768 square feet. The building was reinforced to withstand strong winds. It was also elevated in regards to flooding that happens in the area.
The building was designed to imitate the curves of a ship. It has elements of timber that give the sense of sea vessels.
The museum features many extraordinary finds, including:
· The ship bombing of General Billy Mitchell found at Cape Hatteras in 1921
· An Enigma machine that was in the German submarine U-85 that sunk in 1942
-After negotiations with the Federal Government of Germany, the U-85 was conserved. The museum displays this significant find. The machine had encoding and transcription features.
· A First Order Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
· Queen Anne’s Revenge
-an early 18th century ship better known as Blackbeard
· piracy artifacts from well-known Atlantic pirates such as Anne Bonny, Edward Low among others
There are some maritime military displays at the museum which include
· USS Monitor ironclad warship sinking
-The artifact is a thorax from the machine that sank 16 miles off the Hatteras coast.
· American Civil War blockade runners
· World War II submarine attacks off the North Carolina coast
The museum receives help from divers and local families. These groups help to bring together historical information and materials to the public.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum offers many interesting programs throughout the year. Some of the programs you can take part in are:
1. Scavenger hunt
Participants look for specific hidden objects around the maritime museum. Participants receive a prize when the hunt is complete. This program is offered daily.
2. Salty Dawg Series
The museum celebrates the coastal culture with history and culture talks. Participants can also take part in maritime art and music and seafood appreciation. This happens every Tuesday from 2 p.m. from May to around September
3. Sam Green’s canvas decoys
Sam Green demonstrates the art of creating canvas-backed decoys. This happens from 12:30 to 4 p.m on Friday afternoons between mid-May and mid-November. Green’s decoys are sold in the museum’s store in case visitors would want souvenirs.
4. Maritime Crafts
Families are able to make vacation postcards for the mail, valentines, and finger puppets. Each craft features for a whole month. The classes run on Wednesdays from mid-May through mid-September at 10:30 a.m.
More events depend on the year. These are the most consistent ones
· April- Underwater Heritage Symposium
· May –British War Graves ceremony
· An annual gala
A complete schedule of events is on the museum’s website and social media.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is a definite visit during an Outer Banks vacation. If you still have a few more days to kill there are many places in the museum’s area that you can visit.
· Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Ocean wave sounds, salt marshes and starry nights are available to beef up that vacation time. While on the national seashore, there are many activities to participate in. One can go kayaking, climbing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and having a simple day at the beach.
· Kill devil Hills
If you are in search to break off an activity-filled day or are in the mood to explore, Kill Devil Hills is a hub of activity.
· Kitty Hawk
An Outer Banks vacation is not complete without a visit to the beach town of Kitty Hawk. There are amazing views of the Atlantic from the Kitty Hawk Pier. It has amazing picnic areas and the town is perfect for winding down your vacation.
Please check out our complete list of sites and other somewhat unusual attractions in the Eastern North Carolina area in our main article here: The Historic Albemarle Trail.