Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck Project


With support from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), graduate students from East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies (ECU) in partnership with the UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC CSI), will investigate a shipwreck near the village of Rodanthe as part of a fall field school.  Known locally as “Pappy’s Lane Wreck”, the as-yet unidentified vessel lies submerged in the brackish, waist-deep waters of the Pamlico Sound and in the direct path of the planned Bonner Bridge extension project.  Led by UNC CSI Maritime Heritage Program Head and associate professor Dr. Nathan Richards (Program in Maritime Studies/Department of History, East Carolina University), the group will spend the month of September on the site as part of a multi-stage archaeological investigation.

Aerial view of the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck Site (PAS0001)


The project will endeavor to:

Graduate students in ECU’s Program in Maritime Studies record features of the shipwreck.

  •  Assess the site’s significance and potentially identify it
  •  Record the vessel before any potential impacts from bridge construction occur
  •  Ground-truth anomalies in close proximity to the wreck that may be associated with the vessel and which may also impede bridge construction

Dr. Richards has been investigating this shipwreck in some capacity since 2010.  These efforts produced a scaled site map as well as extensive historical research, including historic photographs and blue prints in order to learn more about the wreckage.  Further investigation occurred at the site during UNC CSI’s NCDOT-funded interdisciplinary grant associated with the nearby Rodanthe-Stumpy Point Emergency Ferry channel (2015-2017) which, while focused on the potential utilization of dredged material from the channel also expanded the history of the vessel as a part of an assessment of cultural resources in the area.  Parallel with this effort, Panamerican consultants (an archaeological consulting agency) carried out survey work in the area in 2016 and recommended that the shipwreck be considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project is carried out under the following permits:

  • North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Permit 17PAS654
  • North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Coastal Resouces Commission Permit 97-17


Due to the vessel’s eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that the archaeological investigation is carried out before the planned construction project proceeds.  Additionally, researchers believe that the site has separate historical, archaeological, interpretative, and educational significance.

The shipwreck site as seen from the surface.

These include:

     Historical significance: As the result of historical research, researchers identified five candidates sharing characteristics with the vessel remains.  While there is presently no definitive proof that the wreck is one of these five ships, historical information gleaned from their blueprints will assist in the interpretation of the Pappy’s Lane shipwreck site.  The research resulting from this fall field school project would help include or exclude candidates based on correlations between historical and archaeological data.  Should the remains correspond to one of the candidates, additional consideration of historical significance will be possible.

     Archaeological: Site PAS0001 may represent the remains of a late-19th century or early 20th American steel-hulled shipwreck.  Investigations of the vessel may provide clues to American shipbuilding practices in this time.

     Interpretive significance: There are very few opportunities for members of the public to directly engage in an exposed, potentially-significant shipwreck.  The wreckage, properly interpreted provides an exceptional opportunity for members of the public to directly interact with a shipwreck.

     Educational significance: In addition to drawing on expertise already established for the site, the project allows for significant training of ECU graduate students in archaeological techniques, and historical research – in a real-world scenario.  Additionally, through local community training initiatives on the Outer Banks (e.g. ECU and CSI’s Nautical Archaeological Society training initiative) this vessel holds great potential for public-orientated maritime history and archaeology training.

Pappy's Lane Shipwreck Project Blog
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    By Meghan Savona, First Flight High School Intern A maritime archaeology research project is currently underway in the Pamlico Sound off Rodanthe, NC. The shipwreck known as “Pappy’s Lane Wreck” is being studied because of its potential historical, archaeological, interpretive, and educational significance. While the identity of the Pappy’s Lane Wreck is currently unknown, it’s …Read More