2018 is a unique year on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, as there are several landmark events in local history that are reaching some impressive milestones this summer and fall.
August 16 marks the 100th anniversary of the Rescue of the Mirlo – one of the most notable rescues in Life-Saving Station history – while November 22 marks the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death, which occurred off the coast of Ocracoke Island.
It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the islands’ primary centers for nautical history will be hosting a full summer season of exhibits that pay tribute to these famous events.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village is anticipating several new exhibits, in fact, that will shine a more detailed light on these chapters in our islands’ history, and which will present a distinct opportunity to see artifacts from both of these historical moments.
“Everybody looks at the coast of North Carolina, and they think of great fishing, or surfing, or just fun on the beach, but it’s also an extremely historic stretch of our country’s coastline, too,” said Joseph K. Schwarzer II, Director of the North Carolina Maritime Museums. “An awful lot happened off of our coast, and it’s wonderful when we can spotlight what a historic area this is as well.”
From June 2 to July 29, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum will be the temporary home of the Travelling Blackbeard Exhibit – an exhibit that has made stops throughout the state of North Carolina before landing on Hatteras Island.
Artifacts that will be on display within the exhibit will include pieces from the wreckage of Blackbeard’s infamous flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which was a somewhat common sight off of Ocracoke Island for a relatively short period of time.
“The Blackbeard Travelling Exhibit is a special exhibit that was [showcased] at the State Fair earlier this year, and which has been going all over North Carolina,” said Schwarzer. “It tells the story of Blackbeard and the role he played in North Carolina history – although very brief – but it also raises a lot of questions: Who was Blackbeard, and what was his role in North Carolina history?”
“A number of major artifacts will be at the [Maritime Museum] in Beaufort, but there will be artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, as well as display panels explaining piracy at the Hatteras [museum] as well,” said Schwarzer “We also have a mini-exhibit that focuses on piracy off of Hatteras and Ocracoke in the education wing, which ties in nicely with the Blackbeard Travelling Exhibit.”
In addition to the temporary Blackbeard exhibit, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is also regaining a few artifacts that were loaned to other museums, and which include items related to the sinking of the Diamond Shoals lightship and the British tanker Mirlo. These artifacts will be returned to the museum in May, and will be part of a special exhibit that is slated for August 6, and which coincides with the Mirlo Rescue anniversary.
Finally, thanks to divers JT Barker, Dave Sommers, and Charlie Bulloss, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum has recently unveiled a new exhibit of shipwreck artifacts to be on display through May 23.
These dive boat captains loaned a wide variety of objects from their personal collections, including the bronze bell from the luxury liner Proteus that sank as result of collision on August 19, 1918, about 25 miles south of Hatteras Inlet. Also on display are a variety of household items and toys including a collection of china doll heads and appendages from Eureka, china marbles, glass medicinal and perfume bottles, cutlery, china tableware, a bronze builder’s plaque from British Splendour, (a tanker that sank in April of 1942), brass nameplate letters from Keshena, and a bronze and glass porthole from Papoose, which sank off the coast in March of 1942. The artifacts are on display as part of an agreement to show them during April’s Underwater Heritage Symposium that occurred at the museum on April 7.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is open year-round, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.