KEVIN PAUL DUFFUS
FAMILY TREE (John 1)
December 9, 1997
Graveyard of the Atlantic, Parts 1 and 2
Reviewed by Philip Van Vleck
Most native Tarheels are aware that the waters off the Outer Banks constitute one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in the world. As this two-part documentary notes, there have been one thousand documented shipwrecks between Currituck and Cape Lookout (182 miles).
Filmmaker Kevin P. Duffus has created a documentary of misfortune and heroism, so to speak, in chronicling the history of shipwrecks along the treacherous shallows of North Carolinas stormy Atlantic coast. To piece together the visual portion of his story, Duffus utilizes everything from 16th-century navigation charts to period photographs to photo images of the coastline taken from satellites to video footage shot by treasure hunters and recreational divers. He relies on historians like Dick Stick--whose book The Graveyard of the Atlantic seems to have been Duffus inspiration--and residents of the Outer Banks to help flesh out an oral history of the men and ships that came to an unhappy end along our coast.
Part one of this shipwreck saga deals with pre-20th century catastrophes, such as the sinking of the ironclad Monitor off Diamond Shoals during the Civil War. Duffus is particularly keen to relate the stories of the "surfmen" who risked their lives to save sailors and passengers in distress during this era, both before and after the U.S. Life Saving Service stations were in place. Rasmus Midgett, B.B. Daily and his crew from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Station, and Richard Etheridges all-black crew at Pea Island all performed incredible feats of bravery in the course of rescuing shipwreck victims and were duly honored by the U.S. government for their heroism. Duffus pointed suggestion that these men--and hundreds like them--have not been properly memorialized by North Carolina is right on the mark and seems to be an issue that coastal Carolina residents ought to bring to everyones attention.
The second part of the documentary is mainly concerned with submarine warfare off the Outer Banks during both world wars. Evidently many residents of the United States were unaware, particularly during World War II, of just how close to home the war really was. Outer Banks folks, however, could see both merchant ships and warships going up in flames almost daily in 1942. One gentlemen recalls nearly piloting his fathers boat onto a surfaced German U-boat before realizing what it was. Duffus also shows us the tiny British cemetery on Ocracoke Island where the bodies of four British sailors from the H.M.S. Bedfordshire lie buried, U-boat victims as well. Having stood in this cemetery and gazed up at the Union Jack flying above the graves, I found the place deeply touching and was moved by the kindness shown by the residents of Ocracoke, who have, over the centuries, found more than their share of drowned sailors and broken ships on their beaches.
Part two also offers some spooky moments. The story of the Carol A. Dearing, for instance, a five-masted schooner out of Bath, Maine, that ran aground on Diamond Shoals in 1921 during her maiden voyage. Upon boarding her, searchers found no hands on board, just a cat. She became "the ghost ship of Diamond Shoals." Or the story of the Caribsea--another tale involving Ocracoke. (I dont want to give away all the best details before most people have had a chance to view Graveyard of the Atlantic.)
Duffus does not dwell on any one wreck during this 90-minute film. Rather, he offers what might be called a historical survey of shipwrecks. I would have sat still for another 30 minutes worth anyway, particularly if Duffus had devoted some of that time to pre-19th-century events. He has also chosen to avoid spending much time chasing after tales of pirates, though the Outer Banks has a wealth of such history. Duffus was obviously more interested in relating the stories of more obscure men, such as the surfmen, than in rehashing the Blackbeard legend, which is just as well.
Anyone whos interested in naval history or the history of North Carolinas Outer Banks will enjoy this two-part documentary. Duffus work is very polished, the narration by Triangle (North Carolinas Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area) newscaster Bill Leslie is quite articulate, and Duffus makes good use of archival photos and the personal reminiscences of some Outer Banks residents and local historians. This would be a pretty cool Christmas gift for a land-locked friend in Kansas as well as for those of us who have caught the buzz standing on the beach at Hatteras or Duck or Cape Lookout.
Reviewer's Rating: (3.5/5.0). Ratings Legend
Written, directed, and produced by Kevin P. Duffus.
Narrated by Bill Leslie. 1997; not rated; 90 minutes (each part 45 min.); documentary/N.C. history; Video Marketing Group
To order the Graveyard of the Atlantic videos, call the Video Marketing Group, Raleigh, North Carolina: 800-647-3536. Triangle residents call 845-9244.
Review: © 1997 Philip Van Vleck. All rights reserved.
The Island Breeze
New documentary tells the story of the Graveyard of the Atlantic
by Irene Nolan
The treacherous seas and shifting shoals of the waters off the Outer Banks, known to mariners as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, have claimed more than 1,000 ships in the four centuries since the early days of exploration along the North Carolina coast.
Today the remains of those ships rest at the bottom of the ocean or are buried under the storm-driven sands along 182 miles of coastline from Corolla to Cape Lookout.
But the stories of the ships come alive again in a new video documentary, "The Graveyard of the Atlantic - 400 Years of Shipwrecks, Mysteries and Heroic Rescues.
The 90 minute, two-part documentary tells the story of pirates and ghost ships, of wars and storms, of brave men who risked their lives to save the survivors of sinking ships and of the people of the isolated barrier islands whose lives were shared by living on the edge of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The story is told for the first time with pictures, including rare film footage and photographs. It is also told through interviews with the Outer Banks' foremost historian David Stick and the voices of islanders for whom ship wrecks were a way of life that brought employment, food, fuel, and lumber in build their homes, churches, and schools.
"Graveyard of the Atlantic" was written, photographed, and produced by Kevin P. Duffus, president of Video Marketing Group, Inc., of Raleigh. Duffus is a former broadcast television executive producer who along with four other producers, won a prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in journalism for their documentary, "Fed Up With Fear." He was diving on wrecks when he was a teenager in Greenville and admits to being fascinated by the history and heritage of coastal North Carolina.
Duffus' company produces and publishes videos, mostly travel videos about North Carolina. Joseph Schwarzer, executive director of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, a shipwreck museum that is planned for the southern end of Hatteras Island, saw one of the videos on a trip to Raleigh and gave Duffus a call. Later, he asked Duffus to bid on a promotional video that the museum planned to use to raise funds to begin construction.
Duffus was interested, but he was unsure whether enough visual material existed to tell the stories of the ships that are now long gone. He and Schwarzer spent two weeks at the National Archives.
"We would go in at 8 in the morning and come out at 8 at night with our eyes falling out of our heads," remembers Schwarzer, who estimates the two reviewed 40,000 to 50,000 feet of film."We quickly realized there was enough to work with," says Duffus, who became so enthusiastic about the project that he made the museum an offer it couldn't refuse.
The museum and Video Marketing Group essentially became partners in the endeavor -- with Duffus footing most of the bill. The museum got its promotional video -- a 13 minute film that cost $15,000, of which $10,000 came from the Dare County Tourism Board.
Duffus also produced the documentary with Schwarzer as an adviser. After Video Marketing Group recoups its expenses, the museum will get 15 percent of the proceeds from the video sales."Kevin really went out on a limb for this project," says Schwartzer. "It was a calculated risk," says Duffus, "but we feel really good about it. Even if we never break even, we feel that we have produced a lasting tribute to the history and people of the Outer Banks."
The 90-minute documentary is being marketed in two parts, each of which is 45 minutes long, and costs $19.95. Part I explores the golden age of sial and steam and details ship- wrecks from the 1500's until 1899. Part II deals with the 20th century.
Segments of the documentary deal with the heroism of the U. S. Lifesaving Service and its successor, the U.S. Coast Guard, with the era of the pirates, with the Civil War, and with two World Wars that were fought within sight of the Outer Banks.
The video relates the individual stories of some of the more tragic and memorable shipwrecks and of the rescues, that are unparalleled in modern history --including the Priscilla during the fierce San Ciriaco hurricane in 1899 and the Mirlo, which was blown up by a German mine off the coast of Rodanthe in 1918.
It tells the story of the Carol A. Deering, the famous ghost ship, which was found aground on Diamond Shoals one day in 1922 with nothing out of place. Food was prepared and tables were set, but there was not a person -- alive or dead -- on the schooner. The only life aboard was a cat.
The story of the ghost ship and others are told by Stick, author of Graveyard of the Atlantic. Still more are related by Daniel Couch of Buxton, a historian and writer who is on the board of directors of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.
Others are told by Outer Bankers who have lived through shipwrecks and wars on the banks and whose lives have been shaped by their experiences.
Ida Willis O'Neal, 94, of Hatteras village remembers World War I on the island and the terror of the German submarines, patrolling just off the coast. "My father was on the lightship,@ she recalls. ". . . and they didn't blow that up. They told him to get off, and then they'd blow it up. They got in small boats and rowed away. They gave them the time to do it. They didn't kill them. And they blew the lightship up."
Owen Gaskill of Ocracoke tells the tragic and ironic story of his cousin, Jim Baugham Gaskill, who died in a ship torpedoed by the Germans during World War II near Ocracoke.
The two parts of the documentary had a Premier at the Fessenden Center in Buxton in December. About 100 islanders attended."Seeing their reactions, seeing some of the older people relive their memories, was one of the greatest rewards," Duffus says.
He plans to produce a third part to the documentary this year. It will probably be titled, Stories From the Graveyard of the Atlantic. It will feature some of the mysteries of the area, such as the 1813 disappearance of Theodosia Burr, daughter of the vice-president, and her vessel, Patriot.
No one is happier about that than Schwarzer -- and not just because of the percentage of the proceeds the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum will receive.
He and Kevin Duffus share a goal -- to preserve the maritime history and culture of the Outer Banks, both of which are in danger of being lost as the wrecks under the sand and water are eroded by time, and the older islanders who witnessed the era firsthand pass on.
Schwarzer plans to attain that goal with a museum, and Duffus has done it with his documentary.
Graveyard of the Atlantic -- 400 years of Shipwrecks, Mysteries and Heroic Rescues is available in two parts -- Part I explores the years from the 1500's through 1899. Part II covers the 20th century. Each part runs 45 minutes and each costs $19.95 plus tax.
Videos can be purchased at The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum office in Hatteras Village above the Post Office. They are also available at National Park Service Stores and visitor centers on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, the Elizabeth II historic site, and various businesses on the Outer Banks.
The videos can also be ordered by calling the museum office at (252) 986-2995 or by calling Video Marketing Group at (800) 647-3536. (Postage and handling are charged on mail orders and Video Marketing Group accepts credit card orders.)To preview 10 minutes of part I of The Graveyard of the Atlantic video click here!
You will need to download Real Player 5.0 in order to view the video. You may follow the instructions listed of the Duffus video page which is tabbed in the index or click on the button below. Real Player 5.0 is free for 30 days only at which time you will be required to download another free copy. When you enter the "www.real.com" site follow the Real Player 5.0 logo until you reach the download page. Modem speed of at least 33.3 bps is required for viewing!ou will need to download Real Player 5.0 in order to view the video. You may follow the instructions listed of the Duffus video page which is tabbed in the index or click on the button below. Real Player 5.0 is free for 30 days only at which time you will be required to download another free copy. When you enter the "www.real.com" site follow the Real Player 5.0 logo until you reach the download page. Modem speed of at least 33.3 bps is required for viewing!
NEW VIDEO DOCUMENTARY PRODUCED BY KEVIN DUFFUS (CLICK HERE)
Outer Banks Magazine - Video historian Kevin Duffus putting barrier islands'
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