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Civil War Era Shipwreck Found Off NC Coast

N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Sonarimage of the newly discovered wreck

This week, marine archaeologists will dive down to a Civil War era shipwreck recently discovered off the North Carolina coast. The archaeologists are almost certain it’s a large blockade runner, which is a kind of ship that played a key role during the war.

Billy Ray Morris has been diving along the Atlantic coast since he was a little kid.

"I was diving on these blockade runners in the late '60s," he says.  "My uncle would like tie me onto his belt so he wouldn’t lose me."

Now Morris is in charge of finding and identifying shipwrecks for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. About a week ago, his team used sonar to locate a 225-foot vessel in about 18 feet of water near Oak Island.

He’s 99 percent sure it’s a blockade runner, a ship that would sprint past the Union naval blockades to deliver supplies to the Confederacy. He say it’s common to find their remains near the shore.

"If it looked like the Union blockading ships were going to capture them, they would run themselves aground under the guns of one of the Confederate forts down around the mouth of the river," he says. "The Confederate troops would send salvage parties out to get the cargo off the ship."

Beyond Morris’ love of the water, he gets excited about uncovering new details of North Carolina’s history.  

"It’s kind of like adding color to the history books," he says. "This wreck, because of the integrity of the hull, stands a really good chance of having a lot of material in it that has not been disturbed."

So on Wednesday, Morris will do what he does best: climb into his diving equipment, attach a scuba tank, and swim down to a shipwreck.