Ships Sunk off the Coast - 1526 to 1825






Spanish brigantine Brigantine June 1526 Cape Fear ?
Tiger English ship June 29, 1585 Ocracoke Inlet ?
(?) Fly-boat 1665 Cape Fear 0
(?) Sloop 1666 Cape Lookout 2
HMS Hady Ship 1696 Inlet between Roanoke and Currituck  
HMS Garland English Warship Nov. 29, 1710 South of Currituck Inlet  
Unknown English ship 1728 6 miles seaward from Ocracoke Inlet  
Adriatick English merchantman 1739 Cape Hatteras  
Hoylin English merchantman 1741 Cape Hatteras  
Woolford English merchantman 1741 Cape Hatteras  
George American coastal trader 1743 Oregon Inlet  
Katherine & Elizabeth English merchantman 1744 Diamond Shoals  
Neptune English merchantman 1744 Diamond Shoals  
Seven Unknown English merchantman Oct. 7/8,  1749 Ocracoke  
Two Unknown English merchantman Oct. 7/8,  1749 5 miles north of the inlet  
Unknown Unknown Aug. 18, 1750 Cape Hatteras  
Nuestra de Solidad Brigantine Aug. 18, 1750 Drum Inlet 0
El Salvador Packet Boat Aug. 18, 1750 Topsail Inlet ?
La Galga Frigate Aug. 18, 1750 Cape Hatteras ?
Unknown English merchantman Aug. 18, 1750 Cape Hatteras  
La Merced Schooner Aug. 31, 1750 Currituck Inlet ?
Two Unknown Schooners-merchantmen 1752 Ocracoke Bar  
Union American merchantman January 1757 Cape Hatteras  
Virginia Packet English packet boat 1757 Cape Hatteras  
Unknown American schooner 1757 Cape Hatteras  
Friendship English merchantman 1758 Cape Hatteras  
Peggy English merchantman 1758 Cape Hatteras  
Princess Amelia English merchantman 1758 Cape Hatteras  
Tyrrel Brigantine July 3, 1759 Off Hatteras 16
Nancy English merchantman 1760 Cape Hatteras  
Charming Betsey Scottish merchantman 1760 Cape Hatteras  
Shannon Scottish merchantman 1764 Currituck Inlet  
Revenge English merchantman June 1765 two miles north of Currituck Inlet  
Good Intent English slaver 1767 Cape Hatteras  
Charming Polly English merchantman 1770 Cape Hatteras  
Lively English merchantman 1771 Cape Hatteras  
Betsey English merchantman Before September 1772 Ocracoke bar  
(14/15) Unknown  Large merchantmen Early September 1772 Ocracoke Inlet bar  
Charming Betsey  English merchantman 1774 Ocracoke Island  
Sally  English merchantman  1774 Cape Hatteras  
Clementina   English merchantman 1775 Cape Hatteras  
Austin  English merchantman  1775 Cape Hatteras  
 Aurora  English troop-transport  Nov. 11, 1777 Cape Hatteras  
Peggy  American merchantman 1783 Cape Hatteras  
(17) Unknown  Ships  July 23/24, 1788 Ocracoke Inlet  
 (?)   (?)  1778 Roanoke Inlet  
Molly  English merchantman 1789  Cape Hatteras  
Pitt  English merchantman 1789 Cape Hatteras  
Experiment  American merchantman  792 Cape Hatteras  
(6) Unknown  Ships Aug, 2, 1795 Ocracoke Inlet bar  
Multiple Unknown  Spanish flota ships  Aug, 2, 1795 Cape Hatteras  
Betsey (Betsy)  Sloop Sept. 6, 1797 Currituck Inlet  ?
Industry  American merchantman   1798 Cape Hatteras  
Expectation  English merchantman  1802 Cape Hatteras  
Brunshill  English merchantman  1802 Cape Hatteras  
Lydia English ship   1804 Cape Hatteras  
Molly American merchantman  1804 Cape Hatteras  
Fortura Portuguese merchantman   1805 Cape Hatteras  
Maria French ship 1810 Cape Hatteras  
Lively Lass American ship Late September 1810 Ocracoke Island  
Patriot Pilot boat Jan. 1813 Nags Head ?
# 140 Gunboat Sept.23, 1814 Ocracoke ?
(20+) Unknown Ships Early September 1815 Ocracoke Inlet and on Ocracoke Island  
Superior American merchantman Oct. 3, 1815 Cape Hatteras  
Sero English merchantman Sept. 26, 1816 Cape Hatteras  
Atlanta American brig Nov. 8, 1815 Diamond Shoals  
Mary Ship Apr. 15, 1816 Currituck Beach  
Eliza American merchantman 1816 Ocracoke Island  
Bolina American merchantman Sept. 26, 1816 Boddy Island  
Mary & Francis American ship March 1817 Cape Hatteras  
Rosetta Ship Mar. 4, 1817 Ocracoke Inlet bar  
Emperor of Russia Ship Mar. 18, 1817 Currituck Inlet  
John Adams American merchantman May 19, 1817 Cape Hatteras  
Voucher Ship Nov. 19, 1817 Chicamacomico 0
William Carlton Ship May 15, 1818 Kill Devil Hills 0
Georgia Brig July 15, 1818 Currituck Inlet 0
(2) Unknown American merchantmen Oct. 3, 1818 Cape Hatteras  
Revenue Sloop Dec. 1818 Currituck Inlet 0
Revenge American sloop Jan. 1819 Currituck Inlet  
Phoenix American schooner May 13, 1819 Cape Hatteras  
Henry Sloop Dec. 5, 1819 Ocracoke 6
Islington Ship/American merchantman Mar. 16, 1820 Cape Hatteras 0
Horatio American Ship Apr. 2, 1820 Diamond Shoals 8
Unknown 125-ton English merchantman Sept. 1821 Cape Hatteras  
Charles K. Mallory American merchantman Sept. 10, 1821 Cape Hatteras  
Martha English merchantman 1821 Currituck Sands  
Nereus Ship Jan. 1, 1822 Cape Hatteras  
Enterprise Schooner Oct. 27, 1822 New Inlet 0
Peter Francisco American ship Oct. 7, 1823 Bodies Island  
Caroline du Nord French merchantman Jan. 19, 1824 Ocracoke Inlet bar  
Susan American schooner June 1, 1824 Ocracoke Inlet bar  
Emulous Schooner Jan. 22, 1825 Kitty Hawk 0
Diomede Schooner Jan 3, 1825 Kitty Hawk ?
Washington American ship Jan. 24, 1825 Ocracoke Island  
Nancy American ship Feb. 21, 1825 Ocracoke Inlet Bar  
Horam American merchantman Apr. 6, 1825 Ocracoke Inlet Bar  
(25+) Unknown Ships June 4, 1825 North of Ocracoke Inlet  
Harvest Schooner Nov. 18, 1825 Boche Island ?
Victory Schooner Dec. 1825 Kitty Hawk ?

The Beginning Point

As the research began to discover the history of sunken ships, the earliest recorded sinking occurred in 1526. But the question arises, Why has this been such an active point when it comes to sunken ships? The thing to know is that on Cape Point at Hatteras, an event occurs that is not visible to the eye. This is the place where the northbound Gulf Stream and the cold currents from the Arctic collide. This area is known as the Diamond Shoals. Seafaring men came to call this area the Graveyard of the Atlantic.


  • Pirates were known to roam the coastal waters off the Outer Banks
  • At one point there were houses in just about every community built wholly or partially from lumber salvaged from wrecked ships
  • Areas of the Outer Banks that still today have descendants of shipwrecked mariners
  • Shipwrecks not only populated the island but also provided income


Many vessels lost were engaged in trade routes going back and forth from north to south and south to north. There were many transatlantic ships that were lost traveling through this area. Why pass through this area when traveling from a Caribbean island to a destination in Europe? The answer was the Gulf Stream. Early navigators learned that by traveling the Gulf Stream current they could save considerable time.

And the beginning history of the Outer Banks can be attributed to these wrecks. Many shipwrecked sailors began to set up their homes here. Others began to settle on the island as a result of shipping and shipwrecks. Some served as pilots for the larger cargo vessels, while others became customs inspectors or militia sent by the Colonial government.

And of course, there were pirates, too. Such well-known pirates as Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, and Calico Jack Rackam were known to sail out of the Outer Banks to attack merchant vessels. During their time, there could be a debate as to which was more dangerous: the storms off the coast or the raiding done by the pirates.

The first ship most historians agree was the first shipwreck off the coast of the Outer Banks a Spanish brigantine off Cape Fear in June of 1526. The ship was a part of the Spanish nobleman Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón's attempt to establish a colony in South Carolina.

The book, Graveyard of the Atlantic: Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast, indicates the loss of the ship, Tiger. Under the command of Sir Richard Greenville, a fleet of ships entered the sound surrounding Roanoke Island. However, in researching information on this ship it seems that it round aground but was salvaged and repaired. Even though the ship was saved it appears most of its provisions were lost. Almost two weeks later after being repaired, the Tiger sailed across the Pamlico Sound to explore the mainland coast around July 21. It eventually left the area on August 31 and headed back to England.

The next ship to have been sunk off the coast of North Carolina, not off the Outer Banks was part of a three-ship fleet directed by Sir John Yeamans, a knight, and governor of the region, then called Clarendon County. Some report that it was sunk on Frying Pan Shoals, and another indicates it south of Old Baldy Lighthouse. An article from the from September 15, 2017, indicates that Denny Breese, who has found famous shipwrecks, including the Atocha, Fortuna, and La Rosa de Bilbeo, thinks he discovered the ship south of Old Baldy Lighthouse.

fryingpanshoalsoldbaldy.jpgArea of Sir John Yeaman's flyboat sinking

  flyboat.jpgA painting,  The Harbour in Amsterdam (1630)  by Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, with a Flyboat on the left.

Breese stated that he discovered a debris field standing two to three feet above the bottom of the Cape Fear River at a spot where visibility is usually zero or inches at best. The size indicates that it seems to fit the profile of the 150-ton vessel. Apparently, a witness indicated that the crew of the flyboat was saved by the "neighborhood of the shore," which was the first reference to permanent inhabitants to the area now known as Southport or Oak Island. All of the boat's cargo, including cannons, powder, matchlocks, and bullets were abandoned and could still be with the wreck. The indication of a witness came from the book, The Story of Cape Fear and Bald Head Island, by Kevin P. Duffus.

1750 - Spanish Treasure Fleet Encounter a Hurricane


Up until the end of the War of 1812, very little information was recorded or given regarding shipwrecks. However, after this time newspapers began to record stories about shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina. An interesting article appeared in the Norfolk Beacon and Portsmouth Advertiser on January 15, 1820, regarding the sinking of the Henry. 

Articles began to appear in the American Beacon, the Norfolk Herald, the New York Daily Express, and Portsmouth Herald.

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