While approaching Ocracoke Island from Swan Quarter or Cedar Island the ferry will enter Big Foot Slough Channel and pass two metal piles a few miles northwest of the village. The piles are of unequal length, and many visitors wonder what they are.
These piles are called spuds. They are part of a sunken dredge (the Lehigh) which sank in 1942. Spuds are used to pinion a dredge to the bottom while working. Native islander Benjamin Early Spencer was captain of the Lehigh, and several other Ocracokers were working on the dredge with about nine other men.
The Lehigh was approaching Ocracoke to dredge the harbor in preparation for bringing vessels to the docks at the WWII naval base. The Navy’s mission was to thwart German U-boat activity off shore.
Strong winds produced huge waves that swamped the dredge, and she quickly sank. Navy personnel at the newly established base rescued the captain and crew.