Outer Banks shipwreck won't be disturbed by new bridge
By JEFF HAMPTON
Apr. 07, 2018
RODANTHE, N.C. (AP) — A bridge set for construction in the Pamlico Sound this year will pass directly over the remains of a ship that fought kamikaze aircraft at Okinawa near the end of World War II.
The 2.4-mile span will stay on the same path as planned, and the metal carcass with the surprising backstory will stay where it has been since the 1960s.
Some locals thought the vessel hauled gravel. Others theorized it might have been a repurposed craft, perhaps used by the Coast Guard.
But the dimensions and other clues showed the ship was once called the USS LCS123, said Nathan Richards, head of the Maritime Heritage Program at the Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese.
In its day, the ship was a force to be reckoned with.
"There was barely enough room to walk around the weapons on board," Richards said. "It was maxed out . full of weapons."
Richards and underwater archaeology students from East Carolina University studied and mapped the wreckage last year. The North Carolina Department of Transportation funded the work because the wreck sat where the new bridge would go. There would have been money to study the remains of what was believed to be a barge, Richards said. Turns out, the wreck is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The proposed bridge would pivot from N.C. 12 just north of Rodanthe, arcing west into the Pamlico Sound and reconnecting to the highway within the village. It will bypass a part of the highway vulnerable to ocean overwash. The state is funding the $145.3-million project.
Richards dug deeper to find out how that boat ended up about 1,000 feet off the shore of Rodanthe in three feet of water.
The W.P. Hunt Oil Company in Virginia bought the vessel from government surplus in 1947 and modified it to haul petroleum products. Renamed the Hunt Bros. No. 10, the vessel plied the waters of coastal Virginia for nearly 20 years. Then it disappeared from government records, Richards said.
Richards spoke with the son of the oil company owner, who remembered the boat and that it was possibly sold in the mid 1960sto the prominent Dare County Daniels family on the Outer Banks.
The ship was likely purposely grounded in the late 1960s to work as an anchor to dislodge gravel barges beached near the shoreline at Rodanthe. Photos from the 1970s show the boat in decent shape protruding above the water. Virginian-Pilot photographer Drew Wilson snapped shots of it in the 1980s and later.
The rusted, broken-down hull believed to be a gravel barge had a more important story to tell, uncovered because the wreck sat in the path of a bridge.
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com