Project underway to remove Outer Banks shipwreck from the beach
By Kari Pugh | Correspondent
The Outer Banks’ most recent shipwreck won’t be joining its counterparts buried in the sand and surf of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
In late October, Cape Hatteras National Seashore began a $295,000 removal of the Ocean Pursuit, a 72-foot scallop trawler that ran aground in early 2020 on the beach near Oregon Inlet, her crew rescued by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
The rusting remains have since been a lure for tourists and locals alike, drawn by the Outer Banks’ reputation as the watery grave to as many as 3,000 ships dating back to the 1600s.
In the months following last year’s wreck, the 41-year-old steel-hull vessel sank deeper and deeper into the sand while the National Park Service tried to work with the boat’s owner, who lives in Texas, to get the remains removed.
“Cape Hatteras National Seashore repeatedly requested the responsible party develop a plan to remove the abandoned vessel. The responsible party has not responded to these requests,” National Park Service spokesman Michael Barber said at the time.
Sitting in the middle of the beach just a half-mile south of an off-road beach access, the hulking ship began to draw visitors and soon became a favorite location of local photographers.
Local shooter Wesley Snyder of Wes Snyder Photography photographed the Ocean Pursuit in all seasons, times of day, and weather conditions in her 18 months on the beach, documenting the ever-changing nature of the Outer Banks’ chain of barrier islands.
“I really enjoyed using the shipwreck to capture absolutely everything I could … sunrises/sunsets, Milky Way, moonrise, thunderstorms, and to capture it over time to show how much the beach changes and swallowed up the ship,” Snyder said. “Every trip out to shoot the shipwreck was completely different and I loved how much it changed each time I visited.”
Snyder wasn’t alone in his love for the boat’s remains. The Ocean Pursuit drew so many sightseers in April 2020, the National Park Service issued a warning to beachgoers to stay off the vessel for their own safety.
Park officials said they have continued trying to recover costs from the registered owner, but determined it was necessary to use a combination of funding sources to remove the vessel now before it potentially becomes more expensive to remove later and to minimize impacts to the natural environment.
On Oct. 27, Cape Dredging, Inc. of Buxton began digging out the accumulated sand around the trawler and will cut up the remains into smaller, “more manageable” pieces, which will be placed on a tractor-trailer and hauled away for appropriate disposal. Once that’s complete, Cape Dredging will restore the natural shape and slope to match the surrounding beach.
As his crew bulldozed sand around the buried ship on Oct. 28, Darren Burrus of Cape Dredging said his company has handled a few derelict and disabled vessels, but nothing quite like the Ocean Pursuit.
“I’ve never cut up a boat on the beach before,” he said.
If the weather doesn’t interfere, the project is expected to be finished in about a month, Burrus said.
During the removal, the National Park Service has marked the area as a construction zone and asks that beachgoers steer clear.