Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Business of Shrimping

New York native Carl Goerch (1891-1974) loved North Carolina, and especially Ocracoke. In 1956 he wrote what may be the first full-length book written about the island. Its title was simply Ocracoke. The book's 58 short chapters contain descriptions of island characters, the local square dance, funeral practices, shipwrecks, religious life, and much more. They are a splendid chronicle of island life in the mid-20th century.

Here are some excerpts from Goerch's chapter "The Business of Shrimping":

"A typical shrimping boat is 40 feet in length.... The boat, [with a captain and two men, leaves] the dock...at about four o'clock in the morning.... First thing to be done is heave the try net overboard.... If the showing of shrimp is...good, the the big net goes overboard.... After [an] hour and one-half is up, the big net is hauled up.... The men put on their oilskins and gloves.... If the haul yields as much as 75 pounds, the men are satisfied. They sell the shrimp at prices ranging from 25 to 35 cents a pound...."

Photo by Meagan Spencer


















Goerch asked one of the shrimpers how much money a man makes at this business.

The answer: "That's like asking how much money does a man make shooting craps."

Carl Goerch's book Ocracoke is available for sale at Village Craftsmen.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Interesting little snippet from a wonderful book. Just imagine, a significant amount of work for a small return. 75 pounds X .35 a pound = $26.25 divide that by the three men and you get $8.75 each. I doubt that is how it was divided up, accounting for the boat expenses and so forth, but a simple calculation. Of course the cost of living was a fraction of what it is today. However, these were hard working men no doubt.

    I often reflect on what it would have been like to live on the island in those days. Alas, I'll never know!

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