Archaeology Students Research Shackleford Whaling Industry!

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Date: October 24, 2006
Contact: Wouter Ketel, (252) 728-2250 Ext. 3005
Contact: Dr. Michael Rikard, (252) 728-2250 Ext. 3012

Harkers Island, North Carolina.  In early October, Cape LookoutNational Seashore was visited by a team of maritime archaeology graduate students participating in a weekend field work mission at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina.  This fieldwork was part of a Masters Thesis research project headed up by Emily Jateff, a student at Flinders University, South Australia.  The archaeological team included five maritime archaeology graduate students and one PhD student from EastCarolinaUniversity, under the direction of Dr. Nathan Richards.


Ms. Jateff hopes to use this fieldwork—as well as data gathered from past and future visits to the site—to provide archaeological evidence of nineteenth century shore whaling practices on Shackleford Banks.


The Shackleford whalers were a stalwart and thrifty group, unlikely to leave much evidence behind of their activities.  What equipment they needed to catch and process, or “try-out” a whale, was often reused for other purposes—leaving little trace in the archaeological record.


To combat the lack of direct evidence of shore whaling (whalebone, harpoons, etc.), archaeologists concentrated on identifying possible occupation sites on the island in an effort to better understand the total living environment of the Shackleford whalers.


Fieldwork employed use of metal detectors and ground penetrating radar.  Archival records and oral history traditions helped researchers determine where the whaling sites may have been located in relation to the settlements.  By looking at all this data together, they can attempt to predict where seasonal whaling stations might have been located on Shackleford Banks.


Ms. Jateff noted that she is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to investigate such an important site in North American whaling history.  She also commented on the wonderful resource that the seashore and community have in Shackleford Banks: “I just spent two days walking around on a barrier island recording archaeological sites and going eye-to-eye with wild horses—it just doesn’t get any better than that”.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


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