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Outer Banks beach covered in a mile of shipwreck debris asks public for help

Cape Hatteras National Seashore put out an unusual call for help late Monday, asking for volunteers to clean up a shipwreck spread more more than a mile across beaches at Cape Point.

The shrimp trawler Big John flipped over and broke apart just before 5 a.m. Monday, leaving “hazardous objects” washed up on the shore for as far as the eye can see.

A massive cleanup lasted much of the day Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the National Park Service reported 70 volunteers showed up to pluck broken timbers, nails, tools and fragments of the ship’s hull from the sand. Photos showed the resulting piles of debris were waist-deep on the beach, and included what appeared to be an inflatable life raft.

However, the trawler’s massive mast-like double rigging remains stuck in the surf just off the beach, photos showed.

Park Service officials said their goal was to keep the mile-wide field of debris from spreading to other areas.

“Beach drivers and walkers should still use caution in case any hidden debris becomes exposed,” said a National Park Service Facebook post on Wednesday.

National Park Service Rangers were alerted to the trawler’s sinking at 5:20 a.m. Monday and rushed to help the U.S. Coast Guard and Hatteras Island Rescue Squad find where hull ran aground.

What was left of the trawler, based out of Wanchese, was located in the surf near Frisco, where relentless waves were breaking it apart. Three crewman were found alive and taken to a hospital for evaluation, said a release.

Investigators have still not released a theory of what might have caused the ship to flip over and breaking apart.

Cape Hatteras officials said the cleanup also included members of the National Park Service, United States Coast Guard, Hatteras Island Rescue Squad and Hatteras Fire Department.

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