Local News

Drought Exposes Rare Boat in Tar River

Posted October 11, 2007 6:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2007 10:17 p.m. EDT

— Low river levels caused by a statewide drought have exposed a rare, sunken boat in the Tar River. Historians believe it was a pole vessel used on the Tar River before steam boats, when Tarboro and Old Sparta were booming port cities.

"It's exciting, to me. It's history," onlooker Anne Powell said.

"That's a nice boat. I never seen nothing like this," onlooker Joe Lewis said.

Historians said the 80-foot-long boat was likely built in the 1820s.

"Not many have been found in North Carolina, which is what makes this exciting," historian Monika Flemming said.

The sunken boat was discovered a few years ago, but the drought has made it visible from land for the first time.

"It's a major part of our history, and it's great to find something like this," onlooker Jonathan Reese said.

Crowds gather daily to catch a glimpse of the large wooden object from the river banks and the Old Sparta bridge.

"If you see this one thing, then imagine what's up and down the river that we don't know about," Reese said.

Some historians worry look-seekers will compromise artifacts. State officials have asked folks not to disturb the vessel.

"It's exciting to find it. I just hope it stays in tact long enough for the archaeologists to really be able to explore it more," Flemming said.

Edgecombe County sheriff's deputies have been asked to patrol the area. State archaeologists, currently working on what is thought to be Blackbeard's flagship, plan to study the Tar River boat soon, they say.

The Blackbeard wreckage was discovered in 1996 in Beaufort Inlet. The flagship ran aground in 1718.