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2010 ECU Nearshore Expedition
Mission info 2007 Nancy Foster Cruise
 

Blog: June 1, 2010

William Schilling
East Carolina University

It was not the greatest start to a day of diving, but after technical difficulties with the sonar and poor visibility at our first site, the dive team of East Carolina's summer field school was able to locate the British steamer Strathairly. The ship is a 19th century wreck built at Middlesboro, England, in 1874, that now lies a few hundred yards off the coast of Rodanthe on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As we descended onto the wreck, its cargo of iron ore was immediately apparent.

Strathairly
Strathairly. (Photo Courtesy of Naval Heritage Command)
The ship was lost in March of 1891, with nineteen deaths, it was the greatest loss of life on a shipwreck in that year. As we descended, the wreck appeared out of the gloom. Visibility improved to about eight feet on the wreck as we passed beneath the thermocline. Reports tell of the ship breaking up in the storm, and upon initial inspection, the wreck appears to be a giant debris field. Patterns of degradation due to time and weather appeared in the debris revealing an intact stern splayed open.

The number of years that the ship has sat on the bottom of the Atlantic is evident by the amount of organic material covering nearly every surface. There are a number of species of fish and coral inhabiting the wreck. From the initial dives, it looks like there is going to be a significant amount of work required to fully map the vessel. It will be interesting to see where the baseline is placed because of the disarticulation of the wreck. After over a century of site formation it will prove a challenge to reassemble the jigsaw puzzle of Strathairly.

Sonar of Strathairly
Side scan sonar of the Strathairly. (Courtesy of ECU)

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