Sonar Imaging Reveals U.S. Civil War Shipwreck Off North Carolina Coast


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 11 2016, 14:38 UTC
336 Sonar Imaging Reveals U.S. Civil War Shipwreck Off North Carolina Coast
North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Sonar images show the tattered remains of a large American Civil War ship that has been recently discovered off the coast of North Carolina.

The 68-meter (225-feet) iron-hulled shipwreck was discovered on February 27 during sonar operations by the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology and the Institute of International Maritime Research.


The exact identity of the ship hasn't been figured out yet. However, given the ship’s size, the archeologists have said it’s very likely to be a Confederate “blockade runner” steamship, used to break through the wall of Union ships blocking the port of Wilmington, North Carolina.

This blockade was part of the “Anaconda Plan” that the Union developed from 1861 onwards. The plan hoped to keep an aggressive stranglehold on southern ports to prevent the Confederacy from exporting cotton, thereby sapping them of funds.

Three blockade runners – the Agnes E. Fry, Georgianna McCaw, and Spunkie - are all known to have sunk in the area during the final years of the Civil War. After a dive team go to investigate the wreck this week, the archeologists are hoping they can precisely identify it as one of these three ships. They are also planning to gather more data from sonar imaging once the weather permits.

“A new runner is a really big deal,” said Billy Ray Morris, Deputy State Archaeologist-Underwater and Director of the Underwater Archaeology Branch, in a press release. “The state of preservation on this wreck is among the best we've ever had.”


Illustration of USS Banshee, a slightly smaller blockade runner used during the Civil War. R.G. Skerrett (1899)/U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph/Wikimedia Commons.

[H/T: Reuters]

  • tag
  • archeology,

  • history,

  • civil war,

  • sonar imaging