The Carroll A. Deering, “Ghost Ship”

The Carroll A. Deering. Image from the N.C. Maritime Museum.On January 31, 1921, the impressive five-masted commercial schooner Carroll A. Deering was found wrecked on Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras. At the time, she was returning to Newport News from a trip to Brazil. Built in 1919 by the G. G. Deering Company in Bath, Maine, the ship was among the last wooden schooners built before their eclipse by iron shipbuilding.

Two days before the discovery of the wreck, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse keeper reported seeing the ship. A crew member yelled that the ship had lost its anchors and it continued sailing on.  On the morning of the 31st, the Coast Guard discovered the foundered boat, ostensibly abandoned.

When the seas calmed four days later and the Coast Guard was able to reach the ship, it was clear the vessel had been abandoned—the crew and their navigational equipment, belongings, documents and lifeboats were all gone, but interestingly dinner was on the stove and the captain’s cabin was a mess. A few months later, the ship was dynamited so it wouldn’t be a hazard to mariners in the area. 

The mysterious circumstances of the wreck became the subject of investigation which included a visit to Dare County by the FBI. Various explanations for the wreck surfaced, including pirates, mutiny, and the effects of the ship having travelled through the Bermuda Triangle. The cause remains a mystery.

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