Old Shipwreck Discovered on North Carolina Coast After King Tide

A shipwreck thought to be from the 1800s has been discovered on the coast of North Carolina after a particularly high tide.

The remains of the ship appeared close to a beach club on Bald Head Island, located in Brunswick County to the south of Wilmington.

In a Facebook post on 23 February, the Shoals Club said an archeological team had visited the site to examine the remains and determine that they did indeed represent the parts of an old ship.

Pictures posted by the beach club show the remains, which are not immediately recognizable as a ship, consisting of several pieces of wood fitted with metal spikes and rods.

"History has been found on The Shoals Club beachfront!" the beach club said in the post.

It is not clear exactly when but the shipwreck appeared during a "king tide" earlier this year, according to the beach club.

A king tide is a popular, non-scientific term that people often use to describe exceptionally high tides, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Tides are the result of oceans being pulled back and forth by the gravitational influence of the moon and the sun.

King tides occur during a new or full moon that coincides with the moon being at its perigee—or its closest point to the Earth.

"Finding the shipwreck uncovered on the beach was like finding gold at the end of the rainbow," the Shoals Club said in a statement provided to Newsweek. "It's a privilege to be a small part of the ship's story—we look forward to learning more about it as the North Carolina Office of Archeology researches the remains further."

Local North Carolina news outlet the State Port Pilot reported that the skeleton of the ship measures 12-by-60 feet.

At this point it is not clear whether or not the shipwreck is historically significant and when exactly it sank. But archeologists have taken measurements and samples to try to learn more about the remains.

Maritime history expert Kevin P. Duffus said the dimensions of the remains indicate that the ship was larger than a standard fishing boat and suggested that it could be dated to the 19th century.

"That's a fairly large artifact," Duffus said. "If I were doing the analysis, I would take into account the iron fasteners and wooden timber, suggesting a late 19th century vessel, most likely a large schooner."

Duffus said a common problem in identifying shipwrecks is that strong storms can transport remains long distances from where a ship originally sank.

Shipwreck found on Bald Head Island
The remains of the ship found on Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Kimmy Holman/Shoals Club

Local authorities are now debating what to do with the shipwreck. Carin Faulkner, a spokesperson for the Village of Bald Head Island, told Newsweek: "Archeologists from the state gathered physical data from the artifact last week. It may take some time for the state to identify the origins of the shipwreck. What will happen to the artifact from this point forward is unknown."

"The Village has long supported efforts to protect historic artifacts that are found on Bald Head Island to perpetuate its cultural heritage. If it can be removed, the village will be required to apply for a permit from the state."

The Shoals Club has asked beachgoers to stay away from the remains while experts investigate the artifact.

Faulkner said the artifact's condition and location poses a public safety risk, urging people to stay away from it.

"The remnants include dozens of rusty metal pieces, some of which protrude from the remaining wood. Depending on the tide, pedestrians and emergency vehicles cannot get around it," she said.

"The Village has cautioned folks to be cautious when walking in this area and to not allow children to walk in the area unsupervised. Caution tape was put up but likely did not last long due to the strong wind, tides, and wave action. Please let your family members, visitor, and guests know to be careful out there."

Update 03/04/22, 12:04 p.m. ET: This article was updated to include comments from Carin Faulkner.

Update 03/09/22, 9:42 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement from the Shoals Club.

Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Stock image showing the village of Bald Head Island in North Carolina where the remains of the ship were found. iStock