"Upon the rude unpainted table at home the fisherman laid the wet paper, unscrolled it, but then could barely make out the sloppy clots of penned words: Deering Captured by Oil Burning Boat . . ."
In late January 1921, less than two years after her maiden voyage, the Maine schooner Carroll A. Deering ran aground on Diamond Shoals off of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras. The Deering was on a return run up the East Coast after delivering a load of coal to Brazil. All sails but the flying jib were set. Coffee and soup were on the stove, spareribs in a pan. But the captain’s cabin was in disarray, the ship’s lifeboats, papers, and nautical instruments gone, and not a soul on board.
The mystery of the missing crew and abandoned ship was colored by international—and local—intrigue: prohibition bootlegging, international piracy, Bolshevik anarchy, a message in a bottle, rogue World War I German submarines, and a rebellious crew. Spearheaded by the missing captain’s daughter, the case attracted the attention of a future U.S. president and the national media.
This issue of Southern Cultures features excerpts from Bland Simpson’s Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering, a nonfiction novel recently published by the University of North Carolina Press, that take us to this abandoned ship on the North Carolina Outer Banks some eighty years ago.