16, 2018, will be an iconic day on Hatteras Island, as it marks the
100th anniversary of the rescue of the British tanker Mirlo, which is
easily one of the most famous rescues in local history.
As fitting for such a once-in-a-lifetime
occasion, the Chicamacomico Historical Association is planning a week
of events to coincide with the anniversary, complete with art auctions
and shows, rare exhibits and artifacts, tours, local fare,
entertainment, and even a flyover from the U.S. Coast Guard Station
Elizabeth City. (And that’s just a sample of what’s slated for the
The orchestrating of such an event is no small
undertaking, and the Chicamacomico Historical Association has been hard
at work for more than a year fitting all of the pieces into place.
Recently, they partnered with Carl Curnutte, Executive Director for the
Elizabethan Gardens and longtime major event planner, for a little
guidance, and the event is starting to take a noticeable shape.
“Now it’s crunch time, so we brought in the big
guns,” said Chicamacomico Historical Association President John
Griffin. “Carl has been instrumental for a lot of events like the
annual Seafood Festival, and he graciously agreed to help us get this
There are a lot of moving parts to consider, as
well. U.S. Coast Guard officers are planning to attend and / or address
the crowd during the celebration, however there’s always the
possibility that a hurricane that needs their attention will add an
But despite these small and possible last-minute adjustments, the event on the whole is shaping up to be one to remember.
It’s essential to understand how groundbreaking
the Mirlo Rescue was. Occurring on August 16, 1918, the rescue involved
six life-savers heading off the coast of Rodanthe to rescue 42 crew
members of the British oil tanker, which was torpedoed by a German
U-Boat. The endeavor, which was spearheaded by Capt. John Allen
Midgett, required rowing to the stranded crew members through a literal
ocean of flames.
“It’s a very important day in our history,” said
Griffin. “The Life-Saving Service merged [with the United States
Revenue Cutter Service] to form the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, and the
Mirlo rescue took place in 1918. A lot of people don’t know that
submarine warfare goes back to WWI, and the Coast Guard had just
started – It was a brand new outfit, and then a bunch of local guys go
out and rescue 42 British seamen in an ocean that’s on fire. It’s
“It’s certainly one of the most significant
rescues in Coast Guard history, and one of the most significant rescues
on the Outer Banks,” he added. “It was the first big publicity that the
Coast Guard received – no one even knew what the Coast Guard was, as it
has just started three years before.”
The Chicamacomico crew received accolades for the
rescue from all over the country, as well as the world. Across the
pond, King George V of the United Kingdom struck six special medals for
the crew members – the only six medals of its kind in existence. In
addition, the six men received the Grand Cross of the American Cross of
Honor. To date, only eleven Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor
awards have been bestowed in the history of the United States, with six
being given to the members of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station.
A complete set of medals will actually be on
display during the 100th Anniversary event, which includes the King
George medal as well as the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor.
Other special exhibits that will be borrowed from the descendants of
the crew for the celebration include a compass from one of the
lifeboats, a lantern and pair of binoculars from the Mirlo, and a
silver cup that Capt. Midgett was awarded by the British.
And the descendants of the original six surfmen
will hopefully be in attendance as well. A special dinner for the
descendants is being planned during the week, which includes
invitations to more than 90 families.
“There’s one person who is a direct child of one
of the rescuers, then nine grandchildren, and then great grandchildren,
great-great grandchildren, and even great-great-great grandchildren,”
said Griffin. “We’ve identified 96 families that will get family
invitations to that dinner, so that dinner should be quite a blast.”
Another highlight of the week is a Monday auction
of 100 one-of-a-kind artworks that were painted by local artists on
shingles that are derived from the original station. “There are 100
artists, who are contributing 100 cedar shakes for the 100th
anniversary, and the bidding will start at 100 dollars for each shake,”
The event is certainly coming together, but the
call is still going out for sponsors and donations. Advertisements in
the 100th Anniversary program are currently available until June 15,
and sponsors and donors of all varieties continue to be welcome for the
“Diversity is [something to consider] for folks
buying an ad or becoming a sponsor,” said Griffin. “People who go to
the Arts Council aren’t neccesarily the same people who go to the
History Center or the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This will
attract a unique [and varied] crowd.”
Donations of all sizes are welcome, too, for anyone who wants to help with the milestone event.
And for folks who love history – or just Hatteras
Island in general - an added bonus of sponsoring the celebration is the
ability to be a unique piece of truly legendary local history.
“If you’re a sponsor, you’re doing this because
you care about the people,” said Griffin. “It gives you a chance to
show that you’re supporting our community.”
Click here for more information on sponsorships and advertisements.
What’s on the schedule (so far):
ARTISTS AND BUYERS OPENING RECEPTION
Monday, August 13, 2018
Collection of cedar shakes salvaged from the 1911 building and hand
painted by local artists will be on display from August 3rd through
Dare County Arts Council Gallery
300 Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC
MIRLO RESCUE EXHIBIT AND RECEPTION
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Mirlo artifacts provided by descendants of Chicamacomico.
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras, NC
DESCENDANTS DINNER AND GUIDED TOURS
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Descendants enjoy a catered dinner on the lawn of Chicamacomico
Life-Saving Station. Guided tours of historic Hatteras Island will be
available throughout the day.
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
23645 NC Hwy 12, Rodanthe NC
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF MIRLO RESCUE
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Opening Ceremonies, Keynote Speaker, Beach Apparatus Drill, U.S. Coast
Guard Station Elizabeth City Flyover, Wreath Laying, and Evening
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
23645 NC Hwy 12, Rodanthe NC
LOCAL ART FAIR AND FESTIVAL
Friday, August 17, 2018
20 Local Artists, Locally-sourced Food, and Live Entertainment.
Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building
23646 NC Hwy 12, Rodanthe, NC