For more than eighty years the untimely demise of the Carroll A. Deering has remained a mystery despite intense investigations by the captain’s daughter, the federal government, and historians. The few facts that have been verified include: In September 1920 the ship set sail from Boston for Buenos Aires with a final destination of Norfolk. On the initial leg of her voyage her captain, William M. Merritt, became ill and requested to be relieved of his duties. At Lewes, Delaware, Captain Willis B. Wormell replaced Captain Merritt, and Chief Officer Charles McLellan replaced S. E. Merritt, Captain Merritt’s son, as first mate. As the voyage continued Captain Wormell privately confided to a friend and fellow captain that he did not trust his crew. As the schooner approached Cape Fear, she ran into a gale. When she passed the Lookout Shoals Lightship late in the afternoon of January 29, 1921, some members of her crew were standing on her deck, but there was no sign of Captain Wormell. That was the last time anyone was seen onboard the Carroll A. Deering.
Speculation about the fate of the crew and why they abandoned the schooner has ranged from mutiny and capture by Russian pirates (who had captured at least one other vessel in 1920) to the more probable although somewhat unexplainable abandonment of the disabled vessel and subsequent drowning of all the crew.
The Coast Guard dynamited the remaining wreckage of the short-lived, lovely Carroll A. Deering in the spring of 1921 to prevent her from endangering other ships attempting to safely navigate the Outer Banks. A part of her bow rested on the beach at Ocracoke for some time, and later hurricane- driven waters carried her up to Cape Hatteras, where her remains continued to prompt curiosity about the Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals.
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