Sami Kay Seeb
Cape Fear's Forgotten Fleet: The Eagles Island Ships' Graveyard, Wilmington, North Carolina.
(Under the direction of Dr. Nathan Richards) Department of History, March 2007
Settlers established Wilmington, North Carolina on the East bank of the Cape Fear River in 1731. The town grew rapidly as a result of the lucrative naval stores industry supported by the abundant pine forests of the surrounding area. From the early-nineteenth century, through the turn of the twentieth century, Wilmington grew to be the most populous city in North Carolina and the only significant port. Wilmington continued to grow and decline with changing global and local economic and cultural conditions, but its maritime industry always remained at the fore-front of the development of the port city.
Eagles Island sits directly across from downtown Wilmington and for decades was the location of several industrious commercial maritime operations. The active maritime commerce no longer exists in that location on Eagles Island, but the abandoned vessels adjacent to Eagles Island are a reminder of the vibrant industrial past. This thesis demonstrates that the wrecked and discarded abandoned watercraft that form the Eagles Island Ships' Graveyard represent a microcosm of the cultural, economic, and technological characteristics and changes of Wilmington and Southeastern North Carolina. Correlating data from archaeological field work to the comprehensive historical record of the area provides the means for analysis. Interpretation of the archaeological remains is based on the theoretical framework of behavioral archaeology. Accordingly, site formation processes reflect behaviors motivated by conditions of the cultural climate.