The "Olive Thurlow"

Kim Vanderbilt of NYC, sent this picture to us of a painting hanging over the fireplace of her parents home in Saunderstown, RI. Her ancestor was Belcher Tyler Thurlow, the captain of the vessel in the painting. The banner flying from the mizzen reads "Olive M. Thurlow". With the standard archaeological objectivity, we are trying to confirm that this is, in fact, a painting of the Olive Thurlow. We know that the Thurlow was built as a bark, as seen in the painting, and later re-rigged in to a barkentine, but there could still be a second ship named Olive M. Thurlow instead of Olive Thurlow. Still, we are probably 75% sure this is a color representation of the wreck lying 750 yards from the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Thank you, Kim!

This photo is of the barkentine Klikitat. It is nearly exactly like the Olive Thurlow and is used as there are no known photos or drawings of the Thurlow. Complements of the Victor C. West collection, Coos Art Museum.

At 8 o'clock, on the night of December 3rd, 1902, the barkentine Olive Thurlow dropped anchor in Cape Lookout Bight about 1 1/2 nautical miles from the Cape Lookout Life-saving Station. The Olive Thurlow was 149 feet long, 32.7 feet wide and weighed 577 tons. She had been built in 1876 by the O.B. Rideout Company and was owned by the Pendleton Bros. Co. The ship had been fighting a storm off Bodie Island N.C. and had run with the lashing winds to seek shelter in the Bight. During the storm Captain J.O. Hayes had accidentally jammed his ankle into the steering quadrant and broken it just below the knee.

With the captain having been taken to Beaufort for medical attention, First Mate C. Florian, at the advice of the Life-saving Station Crew, had readied the Thurlow for more bad weather as best he could. This time the wind came out of the WSW and was as bad as Keeper Gaskill (Life-saving station) had ever seen. On December 5th, 1902, the seas dragged the barkentine over toward the beach and dashed her on a shoal. One man, John Chaukly, the Steward, was killed when the mast and rigging fell on him. The rest of the crew floated in on the cabin roof, flopping onto the beach "more dead than alive." The crew was cared for at the Life-saving station and eventually went to Beaufort.

On May 12, 1995, after hearing of a "wreck" discovered 700 yards WSW of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, we applied for and were granted a permit with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, for "Exploration and Recovery" of site 0004CLS located at 34 37'.32N 76 31'.92W. The project goals were to survey, investigate, map and chart the site and to recover any endangered artifacts. The project was completed in October of 1996 and has yielded 50 artifacts and a wealth of information. Several interpretive displays have already been shown.

Click here to download a PDF of the END OF PROJECT REPORT for the Thurlow. (3.2 Mb Download)



Anchor being lifted by a National Park Service "Landing Craft" and crane.
Also assisting in the recovery, were Surface Interval Diving Company
divers and divers from the NC Underwater Achaeology Unit.
Photo by Todd Cook, SIDCO.


SIDCO President Robert Smith stands beside
the anchor for scale as it awaits preservation
treatment at the NC Underwater Achaeology
Unit, Fort Fisher, NC. Photo by Richard
Lawrence, Head, Underwater Archaeology Unit.


The Thurlow's 8 foot tall, 1660 pound kedge anchor on dislplay at
the Cape Lookout National Seashore (NPS) Headquarters
on Harkers Island, NC.


A huge site map of the Thurlow wreck site takes up
an entire wall at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse
and Keeper's Quarters.


A temporary exhibit on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum
in Beaufort during the summer of 1998. BELOW- The artifacts are now set up
at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum in Harkers Island, NC. Photo by Robert Heist Jr.

This artifact was recovered during the first year of excavation.
You can see how the spike has degraded over the long
years on the bottom.