By Sarah Nolan for Island Eye News
Kristen Virgilio and her family live a couple of blocks away from the beach access on Sullivan’s Island’s Middle Street, where a curious military oddity has surfaced following Hurricane Matthew.
When I met her at Station 30 to look at the site she was happy to show me the location and discuss how she and her two sons, Joey 12 and Will 11 came upon it.
“There has always been a part of it [visible] but you couldn’t tell at all what it was’” she said.
“We were always curious about it.” She reckoned it could have been something installed by a homeowner. “It kind of looked like an old silo or water storage,” but when the full site was exposed after the erosion of the storm, her boys recognized it instantly.
“They have been to Moultrie lots of times and they were the ones [who identified it] from seeing the cannons there.”
Gary Alexander, a park ranger at Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie National Monument, was able to confirm from Virgilio’s photo that the boys’ guess was correct.
“This is surely one of the Panama mounts for one of the four 155 mm guns that were mounted there in early 1942. Although field artillery, these guns were pressed into service on the coastline, often mounted on circular concrete mounts.”
The mounts were constructed as a semi-circular steel rail set in concrete with a column in the center of the circle to support the gun and carriage. At the site near Station 30, the rusty steel gears are unmistakable.
“I have always heard that the mounts were there, buried under the sand, and uncovered by periodic storms,” Alexander said.
The discovery came as no surprise to Dawn Davis, National Parks Service Public Affairs Officer at Fort Moultrie, especially after a cache of unexploded Civil War bombs were uncovered by erosion on Folly Beach after October’s hurricane.
“It’s off of park property and as far as I know there aren’t any plans for it at this time.” But as for the significance of it, “A lot of the island was part of the Fort Moultrie reservation at one point.” Whilst the discovery may not sit on park property, much like the old officers quarters and abandoned bunkers on Ion Avenue, they are all still connected to the story.
“There are always going to be connections that go beyond a park’s physical boundaries to help tell stories,” says Davis.
Should something be discovered on our beaches, the towns of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms themselves should be a first resource. The one exception is if it’s something like ordnance, Davis advises calling the police department. “Those things can be unstable!” she warns.
The National Parks are always welcoming new acquisitions into their collections. “The history of Fort Moultrie is very broad,” says Davis. “We cover the American Revolution through World War II so quite a bit of that history is very inclusive, whether it’s on the civilian or the military side.”
Some examples of found and donated items were display at Fort Moultrie temporary exhibition for the National Parks Quarter event, which took place last week.
Linda Tucker, City Administrator for the Isle of Palms, reported she was aware of two instances of sites being washed up or unburied. One near 406 Ocean Blvd has already naturally reburied itself. Information on the second site was not immediately available.