A great ‘discovery’

Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When most folks think about the Boy Scouts, they think of campfires and tents and swatting mosquitoes in the woods. The boys of Suffolk’s Troop 16 have done plenty of that, but for about half an hour recently, they got to play the part of marine archeologists discovering evidence of a great calamity.

During a planning trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina the weekend after Hurricane Sandy had passed by, churning up the seafloor and leaving communities flooded on its way toward a devastating impact with the Northeast, a group of 14 Scouts headed to the beach for a break. There, lying partially exposed in the sand was what appeared to be the keel of an old wooden ship with iron spikes that looked as if they could have been hand forged.

With the Graveyard of the Atlantic just off the coast of North Carolina, it’s not all that uncommon for pieces of old, doomed ships to wash ashore on the Outer Banks during hurricanes and nor’easters. But not everybody gets the experience of walking out the back door of a beach cottage and coming across the skeletal remains of one of those wrecks.


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About a half hour after the eager Scouts found the semi-exposed timbers, a couple of Outer Banks locals happened by and told the group the shipwreck they’d “discovered” was one that had already been documented. The Scouts had found the remains of an 18th-century wreck that comes and goes with the storms that rage along the coast.

Surely the boys must have been disappointed that they had not found the remains of some hitherto unknown pirate ship or naval frigate. But the excitement of the moment will not soon wear off, even with the realization that the “discovery” was something less than they’d hoped for.

Not all Scouting trips are so ripe with wonder, of course. But the leaders of Troop 16 should be commended for opening their young charges to the possibilities inherent in such a trip. Who knows? Perhaps one day, one of these boys will look back to that visit to a beach in North Carolina as the day he decided to become an archeologist.