HMS Swift

Ghost ship may be older than originally thought

By Sandy Semans - Sentinel

While State archaeologists try to determine the logistics needed to move the remains of a shipwreck from Corolla to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, the identity of the colonial-period vessel seems more uncertain.

Initially, it was thought that the pegged hull could be what is left of the HMS Swift, which went aground off of Virginia in 1698 and later ended up coming ashore in Currituck, where it was scavenged by locals. If that was found to be the case, it would make it the oldest shipwreck ever recovered in North Carolina.

But, according to Richard Lawrence, deputy State archaeologist in the Underwater Archaeology Branch, that's beginning to seem an unlikely possibility. The ship actually may be older the the Swift.

"After the first trip when we looked at it, we thought the Swift was a possible candidate but the more we have learned about the Swift, the less likely that seems," said Lawrence. "This seems to be larger, and the artifacts seem to pre-date the Swift. We are not seeing any artifact from 1690s, but, instead, more like the 1640s.

"We might be able to look at the construction techniques and come up with a time frame, but there are no physical tests we can do such as carbon dating."

Lawrence said that they will continue to look for candidates but they have searched the North Carolina database and none match. They might look at ships reported as sinking off Virginia to find a better match.