For whatever reason, the waters along the coast of North Carolina have become a hotspot for all sorts of nautical mysteries. Strange things started happening in the Tar Heel state earlier this year when a new island began forming off the coast of the Outer Banks, seemingly out of nowhere. All sorts of mysterious objects began washing up on the island including live, unexploded World War Two-era ordinance. Just this month, a piece of what appears to be a rocket nose cone was found in the same area without explanation. What could explain such a high concentration of maritime weirdness lately? While your guess is as good as mine, another development this week adds to the growing mystery of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The rusty shipwreck lies at the bottom of a shallow area in the Pamlico Sound near Rodanthe, NC. Locals call the sunken boat “Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck” based on a nearby road. While the shipwreck has been a mainstay of local folklore and urban legends for decades, its origin and identity have long been a mystery.
Now, Nathan Richards, head of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute’s Maritime Heritage Program, believes his team could be close to solving the mystery of the sunken war vessel. A team of grad students and researchers from East Carolina University and the UNC Coast Studies Institute identified features of the ship as likely belonging to one of two World War Two-era gunboats: either a Landing Craft Infantry vessel or Landing Craft Support vessel. Richards says the discovery was a complete surprise to him and his team:
We began the field school armed with a significant amount of historical information about late nineteenth and early twentieth century ship types. We soon realized that the ship had a welded steel hull, and what we thought were rivets was some other diagnostic trait. Towards the end of the third week of field work, the evidence that the Pappy’s Lane Wreck was actually a military vessel became increasingly clear. We did not expect to find an American amphibious assault vessel lying in Pamlico Sound, so our research is continuing.
The larger mystery here is how exactly a Pacific Theatre gunboat ended up on the bottom of the largest lagoon along the North American East Coast without anyone knowing about it. Some of these ships were sold to commercial fleets following the war, but it’s still unknown if the Pappy’s Lane Wreck was one of these converted vessels or if it could suggest some hidden chapter of military history.