ECU students search for clues to sunken fishing boats

ECU students and staff use side scan sonar and magnetometer to search the waters of Albemarle...
ECU students and staff use side scan sonar and magnetometer to search the waters of Albemarle Sound(Nathan Richards, East Carolina University)
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 3:58 PM EST
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BERTIE COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - East Carolina University graduate students searched for clues to forgotten fishing remnants within the dark waters of Albemarle Sound.

The two-day expedition included eight students and four instructors with the university’s Maritime Studies Program.

The group used a shallow water skiff, towing a side scan sonar and magnetometer in order to try and discover clues to the Sutton Beach and Black Walnut Point fisheries, which were operated by African American communities in Bertie County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fishermen on sidewheel platform steamers.
Fishermen on sidewheel platform steamers.(unknown | Image credit: Smithsonian Institution, SIA-MAH-4917)

WITN is told that this is not the first time researchers have looked in this area. State underwater archaeologists first looked for sunken watercraft in nearby Salmon Creek in the late 1980s, documenting several sunken boats believed to have been associated with the fishery.

ECU says the goal of the historical and archaeological study is to examine the social and economic conditions of African American fishing communities in the Albemarle Sound, in addition to teaching students archaeological methods and search technologies.

The university says that while African American people had worked in North Carolina fisheries since at least the 18th century, the fisheries in these areas were dominated by these communities and included the use of distinctive paddle-wheeled steam flats used to haul nets.

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