Sea Hunt


It’s the kids with a little Indiana Jones in them who study archaeology here and then stay for a master’s degree in maritime studies. They seem to gravitate to East Carolina, which is one of only four U.S. schools capable of producing that rare breed of scientist, the underwater archaeologist.

When a winter storm exposed the wooden skeleton of an ancient ship in the surf near Corolla, state officials called Maritime Studies professors for help identifying the vessel. Their onsite research discovered that it’s likely the oldest ship ever found in North Carolina, dating from the early 1600s.

The methods the professors and students employed to identify and date the wreck illustrate how archaeologists answer questions that written history never will. Learning what tree produced the timbers narrowed its origin most likely to England. The hull was largely held together with wooden fasteners known as trunnels, and the framing of the ship was made of compass timbers -- trees with a curve that more easily fit together to support a ship’s hull. A coin stamped 1603 was found nearby. To the ECU researchers, these clues indicate the ship probably was constructed in England before 1650 and was used in early commerce with the Jamestown colony. read more...