By Eren Tataragasi - Topsail Voice
For the second time this year, town staff here have unearthed a mystery, and this time it might be tied to one of the Crystal Coast’s many shipwrecks.
This spring the public services staff uncovered what might have been World War II bunkers on the beach, or a large septic tank, but the structure was demolished before it could be determined.
On Wednesday, town public services director Ernie Rudolph found something near the Clamdigger Inn that is part of a shipwreck, possibly that of the old iron steamer.
Mr. Rudolph received the tip about the possible wreck from Jim Francesconi, artificial reef program director with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Mr. Francesconi was on the beach clearing tires from the beach that Hurricane Irene had loosened from an artificial reef.
So Mr. Rudolph and town employees Howard Henderson and Sonny Cunningham headed to the beach where they uncovered an old piece of a ship that Mr. Rudolph believes could be part of the SS Pevensey, which ran ashore in 1864.
Once Mr. Rudolph and his crew got the wreckage out of the sand, what they discovered were large wooden beams, still attached, that had once been covered with metal on both sides.
In some of the wood, there’s still metal that runs in between the panels and wooden dowel plugs, and you can still see and smell that some of the pieces were caulked with tar.
The wooden planks are five inches wide and built to the standard English system of measurement. The dowel plugs are an even fraction, 7/8 of an inch, to be exact.
Mr. Rudolph said the iron steamer was called an iron ship, but it’s unclear whether it was a ship built wholly out of iron, or if it was a wooden, iron-plated ship. If it’s the latter, this could very well be a piece of that vessel.
Mr. Rudolph said the Pevensey was built in London in 1863, so it was still new when it wrecked.
“It could be part of hundreds of wrecks out here, but the museum will be able to tell,” he said.
According to the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the SS Pevensey was a blockade-runner serving the Confederacy and was run aground June 9, 1864, by the Union supply ship New Berne.
The ship was an iron-hulled sidewheel steamer, typical of the type of vessel used to run the federal blockade during the Civil War. It had one deck, two masts, and was schooner rigged.
It was built by Charles Lungley of London and the machinery was manufactured by Northam Iron Works of Southampton, England.