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2010 ECU Nearshore Expedition
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Blog: June 8, 2010

Katie Cooper
East Carolina University

The wreck located at 159 Buffel Head Rd. in Duck was one of the most surprising and puzzling archaeological sites I have yet witnessed. When we arrived on site, a few broken bits of wood peaked out of the beach sand, and we could not yet make sense of where they fit within the wrecked vessel. As archaeologists do, we dug, and we dug, and we dug. Even as we kept digging, it looked to us as though someone had bulldozed the wreck into the side of the sand bluff that supported the nearby house. Obviously, we could not dig into the bluff to any great extent, within which some of the wreck rested, but as we dug deeper and cleaned the wreckage exposed, we discovered some startling details.

Katie Cooper recording the timbers of the 159 Buffel Head Road site (Program in Maritime Studies)
Katie Cooper recording the timbers of the 159 Buffel Head Road site (Program in Maritime Studies)
The intact bow of the mid 19th century wooden sailing vessel pointed into the sand with some of its portside outer hull still attached. Its stempost extended into the bluff, and some of the half frames jutted skyward, while smooth brass and jagged iron pins joined the hull planks to the frames. The hull planks still rested onto the groove, or rabbet, of the stempost, and the cutwater attached to the stem followed it into the hillside.

We were elated as we learned from curves and angles of the bow structure that we could be working with an Atlantic, or Clipper Bow, as these types are very rare in the archaeological record. Also, we discovered that we had uncovered much of the starboard side, with inside, or ceiling, planking that would have arched across the length of the vessel and two large timbers over these that would have pointed diagonally downward towards the bow to make the ship stronger. These features, like the bow, are also very rare to find.

With the many other details uncovered and documented carefully, we were thrilled to realize that instead of a jumbled, bulldozed wreck, we have a fairly intact vessel with much of the bow, starboard side, and even beginnings of the first deck over the hold present to give us a rare glimpse into our maritime history.

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