Solving a Mystery

“Ghost” ships in the Nansemond River.

Photo courtesy of Kermit Hobbs

A group of experts from Florida are studying a dozen derelict ships in the Nansemond River in Suffolk. The ships were found two years ago when a local historian, Kermit Hobbs, flew a drone over the site near the bridge on North Main Street during low tide. “I noticed rows of what looked like little wooden posts sticking up from the mud flat at the edge of the river nearby,” Hobbs says. To his surprise, he spotted the outlines of at least six boats. He posted the drone videos on YouTube under the title “Nansemond River Ghost Fleet,” hoping that someone who could offer more information would see it. 

In October 2019, a group of archaeologists from St. Augustine, Florida, spent two weeks mapping the location, where they found the remains of at least six more vessels common to the Chesapeake Bay, all dating back to the era between the Civil War and World War I. The archeologists took small samples of wood and other materials to study, hoping to learn the story behind these vessels. They plan to return this year and use laser measurements to build a 3D electronic image of the entire site.


This article originally appeared in our February 2020 issue.

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