Wednesday, January 15, 2014


"Supercargo" is a word I encountered not too long ago while reading Alexandre Dumas' book, The Count of Monte Cristo. It is a maritime term that designates a person hired by the owner of a ship's cargo to look after his property. Specifically, the supercargo is obligated to maintain the security of the cargo while at sea, to manage the sale of the property when arriving at the port of destination, and to purchase or receive other goods for the return voyage.

No doubt Ocracoke islanders were well acquainted with this word during the great age of sail when numerous coastal schooners and other ships passed our shores, stopped here to "lighter" their cargo, or anchored nearby to weather storms. In those days many a young Ocracoke man heeded the call of the sea to pursue the life of a sailor.

Today, the word comes to the great-great grandson of those eighteenth and nineteenth century sailors by reading a book!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1921 letter written by a former slave, Harrison Williams, to Ocracoke native, Martha Ann Howard Wahab. You can read it here:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:13 AM

    No doubt the root word super, derives from Latin. Oh my, that is considered a dead language though.