On November 24, 1877, the USS Huron ran aground near Nags Head, en route for Havana from New York. Commander George P. Ryan chose to sail close to shore to avoid having to travel against the Gulf Stream or taking the time to plot a route beyond the strong currents.
During the night, rough seas and dense fog hindered the officers’ ability to navigate the treacherous coastline. The Huron came too close to the shore and ran aground around 1:30 a.m. Although the closest lifesaving station was only two miles away, it was closed until December. Some of the sailors braved the currents and cold temperatures and 36 made it to the shore. Ninety-eight men died.
Two months later, another 85 men died when a second ship, the Metropolis, ran aground north of the Huron wreck. The two disasters prompted Congress to fund additional lifesaving stations and to increase their months of operation.
Today, the wreck of the USS Huron is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1991, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources designated the wreck site as North Carolina’s first “Historic Shipwreck Preserve.”
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