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 Coastal Studies Institute (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 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 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
  • Video – Identifying the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck

    Join Dr. Nathan Richards and graduate students from the ECU Program in Maritime Studies as they uncover the identity of the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck!  

  • How Technology is Bringing the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck Back to the Surface

    by India Mackinson,  Intern, UNC Institute for the Environment, Outer Banks Field Site With each passing day, new technologies revolutionize yet another field or industry, and the Pappy’s Lane shipwreck project is no exception. While the research team did great work on mapping the wreck through snorkeling and meticulous recording, they got some help from another …Read More

  • Refining the Identity of the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck

    By India Mackinson, UNC CSI Intern The mystery of the Pappy’s Lane shipwreck in the Pamlico Sound near Rodanthe is one step closer to being solved. After mapping the site and dredging targeted areas during a month-long field school, Dr. Nathan Richards, head of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute Maritime Heritage Program, and nine East …Read More

  • Uncovering Clues to the Identity of the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck

    By India Mackinson, Intern, UNC Institute for the Environment, Outer Banks Field Site. The Pappy’s Lane shipwreck was an enigma from the start. Going into the project, all Dr. Nathan Richards knew of the wreck was from limited oral history, leaving the name, the type of vessel, and the date of the wreck itself a …Read More

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    By India Mackinson – UNC Institute for the Environment, Outer Banks Field Site With technology more accessible than ever before, it’s easy to forget the essentiality of pencil and paper, especially for maritime archaeology. Dr. Nathan Richards and nine East Carolina University graduate students have studied the Pappy’s Lane shipwreck in Rodanthe for two weeks, …Read More

  • Interdisciplinary Research and Interns on the Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck

    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