January 31, 1921—100 years ago today—the Carroll A. Deering ran aground at Diamond Shoals. The ship was undamaged, but there was no one on the ship…no sign of the crew at all.
It was a mystery that has endured for 100 years.
There are hints that something went terribly wrong. The lifeboats had been launched even though the whip was in good shape. But puzzling investigators, the ship’s log, navigational equipment, all personal belongings and documents were gone.
The captain’s quarter’s though, may have held a hint. There were signs of a struggle there, but the captain’s dinner was still on the stove.
But there may be snippets of information, a suggestion here or there that might give some clue.
In December of 1920 the ship made port in Rio and at that time the ship’s captain, Charles Wormell, met an old friend and confided in him that he didn’t trust his first mate, Charles McLellan.
On January 9, the ship is in Barbados and First Mate McLellan thrown in jail for drunken behavior. Wormell bails him out, but witnesses described an argument later that night in which the first mate threatens Wormell’s life.
Nothing else is heard from the Deering until January 29 when the crew hails the Cape Lookout Lightship to say they had lost an actor in a storm and to notify the Deering Company, the owner of the ship.
The Mystery Deepens
In later testimony, lightship keeper Captain Jacobson noted that the captain of the ship had not hailed him, rather a member of the crew, and that whoever was hailing him, did not give the type of information an experienced officer would give.
There were other mysteries onboard the ship as well.
The Coast Guard crew that boarded Deering found the ship’s log was kept by Captain Wormell until January 23. After that, the handwriting changed.
The most likely explanation is that there was a mutiny, but no sign of any crew member or the lifeboats were ever found.
The Coast Guard blew up the Carroll A Deering, fearing it would be a navigational hazard.
The sea hold so many mysteries along the Outer Banks. Take some time to explore the wonder of life on a sandbar while staying in a Brindley Beach Vacations home.