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What is the history of the cars on Masonboro Island at Carolina Beach inlet?

Amy Hotz
StarNews
Masonboro Island cars

Cars on Masonboro Island, 1960s or early '70s. (Submitted photo)

Hope Sutton, stewardship coordinator for the N.C. Coastal Reserve (Division of Coastal Management) said she doesn’t know a whole lot about the cars, or rather what’s left of them, on the south end of Masonboro Island near Carolina Beach Inlet.

They began showing up over the past few years after wind and water moved the sand around. Some of the car frames even have the tires still attached.

A Wilmington native, however, thinks he knows why they’re there.

Ed Letendre said that years ago when mullet fishing was popular, people used seine nets to catch large amounts of the fish. A boat would haul one end of the net “way out,” he said, circle back around and come back to the island creating a purse with all the fish inside. Then fishermen would attach the ends of the net to mules (or later, cars and tractors) to bring the fish all the way in. Before refrigeration, the mullet would be salted and sold all up and down the East Coast.

That’s one theory.

The theory is that surf fishermen brought the cars there. If they saw seagulls dropping down to catch fish, the cars would get the fishermen to the good spots before the fish went away.

But how did the cars get to Masonboro in the first place?

According to old StarNews articles, Carolina Beach Inlet was cut in 1952. Before that, the “island” was really just an extension of Carolina Beach and cars could drive right on over there.

Sutton said her group has been talking for some time about removing the old car chassis and other large debris on the island.

“That requires a local (funding) match and all the pieces haven’t come together yet,” she said. “To get some of the large things off the island is going to take a large barge and maybe a large front end loader.”

And that will cost quite a bit of money.

“Luckily it’s on sand. It’s not on marsh, so it’s doing the least amount of damage it could be doing,” she said.

User-contributed question by:
Garrett

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3 Responses to “ What is the history of the cars on Masonboro Island at Carolina Beach inlet?”

  1. On September 23, 2010 at 6:53 am mike wrote:

    The cars have become part of the mysterous history of the island. Leave them along.

  2. On September 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm J LANGLEY wrote:

    MOST OF THE OLD CARS ON THE ISLAND WERE CARRIED OVER ON BARGES IN THE LATE 50s / EARLY 60s
    BY SURF FISHERMEN THAT WENT OVER TO THE ISLAND AND CAMPED FOR THE WEEKEND. THEY HAVE BEEN THERE AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER,GROWING UP AT THE BEACH.
    PS.
    THE FISHERMEN WOULD CARRY A BATTERY AND A CAN OF GAS ,JUMP THE STARTER AND AWAY THEY WOULD GO FOR THE WEEKEND.

  3. On April 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm Mike wrote:

    As a young boy I was told by a local fellow at Carolina Beach those old cars were barged to Masonboro Island so surf fishermen could go to different locations to fish on the sea side of the island. It is true because an old Desota was how I was carried to the surf to fish for blues four times a year while I was growing up.



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