The Metropolis founders in the Corolla surf, January, 1871.

The Metropolis founders in the Corolla surf, January, 1871.

The Atlantic hurricane season has been much more active than usual this year. Here on the Outer Banks, we seem to have spared the brunt of it. We have certainly had our fair share of days where the surf has been battering our beaches, though.

What happens when waves pound the sand like that, is the bones of old shipwrecks sometimes reemerge.

Down on Ocracoke the six-masted George W. Wells that sunk in has reappeared. At the time it was launched, in 1900 is was the largest sailing vessel in the world. On Hatteras Island, pretty close to Salvo the George A. Kohler, a schooner that foundered in a 1933 hurricane has made an appearance.

It is possible, though that the most intriguing reappearance of a lost ship is the wooden planking and metal fasteners that have been unearthed in Corolla.

According to published reports, Suzanne Heisman and her husband Kim were walking along the beach when she noticed little wooden nubs sticking out of the sand at the edge of the surf. Realizing that it wasn’t natural, she and her husband began clearing sand away, first with clam shells then with a borrowed toy shovel.

When the couple was done digging, what they had uncovered was clearly a part of a ship. The wreckage had been seen before—in 2010 Ray Matthews reported it to the state and it is called the Ray Matthews Site because of that.

What Makes the Metropolis So Important

What makes this particular piece of flotsam from the sea so interesting is the location where the SS Metropolis sank just 100 yards off shore in January 1878.

The sinking the Metropolis was a horrific failure of the Lifesaving Service, resulting the loss of 85 lives.Just two months earlier the  USS Huron two months was battered to a sinking wreck by the sea just 200 yards from the Nags Head Beach.

In the case of the Huron, the because there was no money in the budget for year round staffing on the Outer Banks, the Lifesaving Station was closed until December.

The loss of life from the Metropolis was the result of incompetence on the part of the local Lifesaving crew and remarkably poor judgment on the part of the ship’s captain.

The combination of disease so close together, captured the attention of the public and they demanded Congress act…which they did with remarkable speed, fully funding the US Lifesaving Service as the new fiscal year began in July of 1878.

The Lifesaving Service became the US Coastguard in 1915.

There are so many tales to tell on the Outer Banks that one week is never enough time here. Plan on spending a couple of weeks with us at Brindley Beach Vacations.