16 Jan 2020
The Oriental Steamer was a 210’ federal tanker that ran aground about three miles south of Oregon Inlet on May 16, 1862. Enlisted by the government during the Civil War, the steamer was carrying supplies and ammunition from New York to South Carolina. While cruising parallel to the shoreline, it ran aground. No one knows the exact reason why the ship ran aground that night. Talk of the pilot falling sleep on watch or a faulty compass have been passed around, but nothing is for sure. The steamer landed about 100 yards offshore and is often referred to as “The Boiler Wreck” as its steam engine can be seen peeking above the ocean. In an attempt to salvage the ship and get her to float, the crew toss over cargo including 100 tons of hay, boxes of hard bread, bushels of oats and cartridges. However the extra effort had failed and the ship was abandoned by its crew – which all survived and were evacuated to other ships.
When the conditions are good, the Oriental is a hot spot for divers, snorkeling, and fishing as various types’ sea life swims near. Those wanting to check out the wreck can park at the Pea Island Visitor Center and walk across Highway 12 to the beach. The steam engine can be spotted offshore. The best time to check out the wreck is when ocean conditions are fairly calm and the tide is lower. On calmer days folks can swim, kayak, or paddle board over to the wreck.
Teaser Photo: Aycock Brown Collection - Outer Banks History Center