Art students design shipwreck signage

A mystery shipwreck exhibited outside Nags Head Town Hall has a new sign thanks to East Carolina University art students.

The students, now alumni, worked on the project in fall 2014. A new fiberglass sign was installed Aug. 14 next to the remains of the wreck at town hall, located on Croatan Highway (U.S. 158) north of Whalebone Junction.

Kate Bukoski, director of ECU’s School of Art and Design, partnered with Nathan Richards, head of the maritime heritage program with the UNC Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese, to research and develop the informational signage.

The sign was installed Aug. 14 at Nags Head Town Hall.

The sign was installed Aug. 14 at Nags Head Town Hall.

“It was a great opportunity for our students to work with scientists to better communicate the science behind a specific issue or topic to a lay audience,” Bukoski said.

The students were enrolled in Art 4205, a senior-level graphic design class, during the service-learning project, she said.

“The vessel is a mystery ship,” Richards said of the wreckage that washed ashore in the 1970s. “Right now, we use the vessel to teach people about wooden ship construction in various classes.”

The previous sign had misidentified the ship as the “Francis E. Waters,” which researchers concluded was actually a much smaller ship than the one on display at town hall, Richards said.

While the name of the ship is still unknown, the new signage tells visitors what is known about its construction, damage and recovery.

It was first found on the Outer Banks in 1975, but was buried, uncovered and re-buried by tides and sand for the next three years. In April 1978, a storm carried the wreck back out to sea before it slammed into Jeannette’s Pier. Once it washed back to shore, it was moved to its present location.

“The wreck is often used as an education tool for both academic and outreach programming,” said John McCord, assistant director of education and outreach at UNC Coastal Studies Institute. “We even used it in our Shipwreck Summer Day Camp this past summer.”