Written by: Kevin Ward | Photographed by: Billy Higginbotham
In North Carolina Shrimping is a good size business, maybe it is not up there with Georgia or Louisiana, but we still catch our fair share here in the Tarheel state. In the sake of full honesty I will volunteer the information that I now and then work with Seafood to earn my weekly paycheck and while doing so I can not help but wonder who was the first person to look at these things and say “yes, I should eat this”? Now I like shrimp more than anybody but they are not the prettiest of things to come out of the sea, and naturally don’t look very appetizing. Still despite their less than attractive appearance they are are highly desired addition to any dinner plate, and this makes it a thriving industry.
Our state has been home to many a proud shrimper, they trawl the waters off our coast to bring us the bounty of the sea offers up. It was around 1915 when it is said that we really stepped up our shrimp game, you see up till then we stuck to catching the shrimp in our inner waterways. This was fine of course, there were shrimp to be had there, just not very big ones. At some point in that year, it was noticed by local fishermen that some visiting marine biologist had returned from deep waters with Large shrimp among their many specimens. Well after this, of course, the shrimper of NC realized they needed to head to those dark waters. The method used for catching these delicious crustaceans in the inner waterways would not work so well in the open ocean, so some local and inventive shrimpers created much of the modern equipment needed for trawl shrimping used to this very day.
Ever since it’s earliest settlers in the 1750’s Holden Beach has been home to many a fisherman and shrimper, and these numbers have only grown since then. Docks along the waterways are filled with boats of all sizes and make, many used for the purpose of fishing and other nautical sports.
Holden Beach has plenty of shrimp boats in their docks, ready to head out with their empty nets, but return with a full haul of shrimp. The ideal image we conjure when we think of shrimp boats is them in their prime moving across the sea full of life and a bustling crew and doing what they were created to do. Holden, however, is also home to some less desirable shrimp boats, the abandoned and derelict ones. It has happened once or twice, a boat reaches the end of her life, maybe do to damages or possible simply age but whatever the reason the boat is abandoned by her crew as it is cheaper to scuttle the ship then to properly dispose of it.
These forgotten ships can become a problem for those on the waterway, as they rot and eventually start to sink. Many of them are abandoned in shallow enough waters that they never fully get taken by the ocean but rather set between two worlds and jut out of the water like an eerie warning that nothing is permanent.
These ships can be a nuisance for locals and those hoping to take full advantage of the waterways. Such ships are understandable a safety issue foremost, as they pose a danger to other ships passing by and could easily cause an accident if someone does not pay close attention. Others see these ghost ships as eyesores messing up the beauty of the surrounding area; I do not 100% agree with that opinion.
For a large number of folks there is beauty in the abandoned, in fact, Urban exploration (exploring forgotten human-made locations) has become a real obsession for many. I of course highly advise against attempting to climb aboard one of the nearly sunk vessels as the danger would be extremely high and not worth the risk. Still, these ships can be enjoyed from a safe distance or the lens of a camera, and this has the added bonus of not risking your life.
Besides for few scattered ships in the waterway and those abandoned on the banks their is reportedly a larger collection of vessels known ominously as the “Shrimp boat graveyard” located somewhere in the vicinity of Holden Beach. Now I can not personally say I have been there or even know rightly where it is located but I have been told it is a site to behold. Why do things these interested so many people? I suppose we have always had any interest in nautical misfortune, events like the sinking of the Titanic or the vanishing of the crew of the Mary Celeste have always been of much interest to folks, I suppose that even though no tragedy is attached to these scuttled shrimp boats they still cause us the same kind of curiosity.