February 14, 2013
Winter beach yields some surprises this week
By IRENE NOLAN
Islanders always enjoy exploring the winter beach on Hatteras and Ocracoke.
The beaches are relatively empty except for a few other beachcombers and maybe a couple fishermen.
as you pick through the flotsam and jetsam along the tideline, you
never know what you might find – a perfect shell or a piece of sea
However, this week Hatteras Island beaches gave up some
unusual surprises and islanders flocked to the shore to check out the
On Monday, Feb. 11, a dead 34-foot sperm whale washed
onto the beach in Hatteras village at the end of Dunes Drive, just
north of Ramp 55.
Despite the fact that it was a gray, rainy
day, dozens of folks headed to the beach to see the whale and snap a
photo – many of which ended up on Facebook.
The dead whale was an older female, said Britta Muiznieks, lead biologist for the National Park Service on Hatteras Island.
said the whale was necropsied on Tuesday and then buried on the beach.
The necropsy did not turn up any immediately apparent cause of death.
high winds and heavy seas from a low pressure offshore resulted in
several feet of ocean water and sand on Highway 12 at high tide Friday
through the weekend. The highway was closed off and on during the high
tide events and while the North Carolina Department of Transportation
cleared the road.
The storm also scoured out some of the
northern Hatteras beaches, again exposing the wreck of the schooner
George A. Kohler, which washed ashore between Avon and Salvo during a
The Kohler stayed on the beach for several years and was salvaged by enterprising Hatteras islanders.
the sands of time covered the wreck. Occasionally, a small part
would be visible on the beach, and, from time to time, large parts of
the wreck would be uncovered in storms.
That’s what happened
last weekend, and by Tuesday, islanders and professional and amateur
photographers were out documenting the remains of the once-great
You can still see the shipwreck if you want to venture out. It’s located just south of Ramp 27 between Avon and Salvo.
is what island historian Danny Couch said about the Kohler in a 2008
story on Island Free Press, entitled “Shipwreck salvaging is a
last of the great shipwreck vendues was the George A. Kohler. It was a
proud four-masted schooner bound from Baltimore to Haiti for logwood
when it was driven ashore below Chicamacomico by 90 mph winds during
the Hurricane of 1933 on Aug. 22. At 212 feet long, the Kohler
presented a sweet opportunity to ship busters in Kinnakeet and
of the fortunate busters was Charles Williams II of Avon, who bid in
the vendue. He and others received salvors’ fees for removing
everything of value on the Kohler to the beach. While she carried no
cargo for Haiti, there was plenty of stuff to be auctioned off to the
highest bidder, such as desks, furnishings, foodstuffs, fresh water,
canvas, sail gear, and the hulk itself.
man who remembered the wreck and sale of the Kohler was the late
Charlie C. Gray of Avon. Still in his possession when he was
interviewed for a story in May, 1993, was the captain’s seafaring
shaving kit, a gift to Charlie from his uncle, Percy Williams, one of
the Kinnakeet wreckers.
Charles and myself went up with Uncle Percy and Uncle Charles in
Charles’ truck and unloaded her,” Charlie said. “Lots of heavy stuff
had to be hoisted over the side. The Kohler had sanded up real
bad, and it was easy to throw a ladder up the side. We got to go aboard
her and it was a thrill running around on her decks.
wasn’t but about 6 and Little Charles wasn’t much older, but it was
pretty high up there for two little boys. We felt like we were on
top of the world.”
Uncle Percy, according to Charlie, got a desk, chair, and various small
furnishings. He paid to tear all the wood out of the forecastle
for his barber shop, in which he cut hair for many years afterward,
Charlie said. The ship’s master, Capt. George Hopkins, salvaged the
sails. The yawl boat was bought by Noah H. Price from the owners, White
and Vane of Baltimore. Price resold it for a tidy profit to Lloyd
Meekins. Charlie’s Uncle Charles bought the rights to the hulk from
White & Vane for $150, which he periodically stripped and sold.
1938, Williams sold the hulk to Leonard Hooper of Salvo, who used some
of it to build what is now the Salvo Assembly of God Church (now the
Lighthouse Church). Hooper then burned the remnant for its massive
amounts of steel and iron in 1940, leveraging the high market the
fittings brought as scrap metal for the World War II effort.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
You can read all of Danny Couch’s story on salvaging shipwrecks by clicking on this link: http://www.islandfreepress.org/2008Archives/07.28.2008-ShipwreckSalvagingIsAimeHonoredTradition.html