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The Graveyard of the Atlantic

With the moon as a lantern, you break away from the excitement of vacation and the constant hum of summer activities to enjoy the beach at night. The summer air is gently skipping along the ocean currents as you make your way down the coastline of the Outer Banks. Your foot steps sink into the sand as the tide attempts to stroke the bottoms of your feet. Reaching the shore with more intensity each time, a fraction of The Atlantic Ocean dives into your footprint and erases the evidence of your travels as it has done to so many oceanside travelers before you. Digging your heels deeper into the sand you attempt to make a lasting connection with the great body of water that seems so persistent on covering the tracks of your time together. The ocean takes no note. This is, afterall, The Graveyard of the Atlantic and it has claimed far mightier victims than your footprints.


The Labrador Current creates a dangerous force that rides into Hatteras Bay. The current is created when the cold Arctic waters from the north meet the warm temperatures of the Gulf Stream. The Labrador Current has been known to be strong enough to carry icebergs into territories where they would not typically be found, creating hazardous anomalies for passing ships. The difficult navigating conditions have proved especially treacherous in North Carolina’s Diamond Shoals.

outer banks boat wrecks



The earliest documented shipwreck at The Graveyard of the Atlantic was 1526. In an early shipwreck year later, survivors took to shore and  formed a small town on the coast of Virginia. The cypress from the wreck was used to form several of the the early buildings. Wash Woods was inhabited until the early twentieth century when the Atlantic Ocean began to swallow up the small town on the shore. By the early 1930s the town was evacuated.

The most recent shipwreck to be taken by The Graveyard of the Atlantic was the HMS Bounty which was originally commissioned in the early 1960s for the film Mutiny on the Bounty. The boat left New London, Connecticut in October 2012 and was forced to take a more easterly path due to Hurricane Sandy. The Captain and a member of his crew were lost to the Atlantic after they were taken overboard by the tumultuous waves.

The most famous ship lost to the Graveyard of the Atlantic was the USS Monitor which was an ironclad warship built during the American Civil War. After launching the end of January 1862, the ship was sunk just eleven months later in December of the same year. During its time at sea, the Monitor was crewed by 49 men and played an integral role in several battles during the American Civil War. The USS Monitor was a Union ship that fought against the Confederate ship the Virginia in the Ironclad battle of the Civil War in March of 1862. 111 years after sinking, The USS Monitor was discovered off of the coast of North Carolina in 1973.

The Outer Banks has a Museum dedicated to The Graveyard of The Atlantic. With so many lighthouses and shipwrecks the coastline holds great historical significance for North Carolina and all of America. The museum is a public nonprofit organization that is a part of the Maritime Museum system which focuses on the years 1524 to 1945, although the museum does include the history from the earliest days of colonization to present day. The museum preserves, researches, exhibits, and interprets The Outer Banks history while providing a wide array of educational events. For information on the museum and its events visit


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