The waters off the Outer Banks are known by many as the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic.’ The shifting shoals and angry seas along the coast of North Carolina have claimed thousands of ships and uncounted lives. Since record keeping of shipwrecks began in 1526, over five thousand ships have been claimed by the ocean off North Carolina.
The Diamond Shoals are a group of ever changing sandbars that extend off Cape Hatteras for many miles and have presented a hazard to mariners since they began sailing along the coast. Located at the confluence of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current, these shoals at times experience some of the most treacherous weather, currents, and waves on the East Coast. Over six hundred ships, including the famous Union Ironclad USS Monitor, have gone down near Diamond Shoals.
The USS Monitor was given orders to proceed from Hampton, Virginia to Beaufort, North Carolina where she was to join with the USS Passiac and USS Montauk. The vessels were supposed to continue to Wrightsville, North Carolina for a joint Army-Navy attack on the city. The Monitor never made her rendezvous. A storm began to develop as she left the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay under tow by the USS Rhode Island. The storm continued to intensify as the vessels made their way south towards Cape Hatteras, and the Monitor was soon in danger. The Monitor’s design was suited to river and lake battle but not to stormy weather in the ocean, especially stormy weather off Cape Hatteras.
See Shipwrecks from the Sky: The Triangle Wrecks
There are several wrecks in the shallows close to the beach along the Outer Banks. These wrecks can be viewed from the air when the ocean is clear. OBX Airplanes offers air tours that fly along the beach and provide amazing views of these shipwrecks.
The Triangle Wrecks near Second Street in Kill Devil Hills is where two large ships ran aground in the same location two years apart. The first was the Kyzickes, a 292-foot Greek crude oil tanker in route from Baltimore to Spain in 1927. She was damaged and disabled in a storm and drifted south onto a shoal off Kill Devil Hills.
The Second ship that makes up the Triangle Wrecks is the 244-foot freighter Carl Gerhard. In 1929, The Carl Gerhard was battered by a storm for five days before finally running into the partially submerged remains of the Kyzickes. The Carl Gerhard cut the tanker’s hull in half as it plowed onto the sandbar.