Life on a Sandbar

The Outer Banks stretches some 200 miles from northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore starting with Bodie (pronounced “body”) and extending about 70 miles to Ocracoke Island.  Its’ width varies from about 3.5 miles at Buxton to a couple hundred yards in places.  Cape Hatteras is served by a single, 2-lane highway, NC Hwy 12, which can be a challenge during high season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Houses and most businesses are built on stilts to lift them above the water in times of flood.  The entire cape is really just a sandbar.  A water sports, fishing, sun-worshipping, kite-boarding, beach-walking paradise but on a really cool sandbar.

About half way down is the town of Rodanthe where we are spending the summer at Camp Hatteras.  Approximately 100 yards east of our RV is the Atlantic Ocean which we can hear almost constantly, while about the same distance to our west is Pamlico Sound.  The mainland of North Carolina is roughly 30 miles across the sound, so we don’t see land in either direction.  We do get beautiful sunrises and awesome sunsets on an almost daily basis.  The ocean has a lot of wave action owing to the tides so we see many surf-fishers and the catch seems to be pretty good.  The sound side is more protected and is much calmer.  Here we see dozens of kite-boarders making use of the never-ending breezes.  Definitely a water-lover’s playground.

Last week we drove to the southern end to the town of Hatteras Village to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum.  The entire length of Cape Hatteras is the resting place of hundreds of shipwrecks, dating from as far back as our country’s early days until the present.  One of the first iron-clad warships, the Monitor, foundered and sank in a storm off the coast.  In WWII, German u-boats sank a large number of ships just of the coast. Since the water is only about 15-20 feet deep, the Hatteras coast is particularly treacherous.  There are several lighthouses standing vigil all up and down the cape, with some that the public are allowed to climb.

We stopped at the Hatteras light but did not climb it.  The museum nearby told the story of how the lighthouse was moved about 1,500 feet further inland when erosion threatened the original position.  Erosion is probably not a good word to use here.  Since Hatteras is a sandbar, the prevailing southwesterly wind tends to blow the sand westward, taking some from the eastern side and slowly moving it to the west.  They figure the new location of the lighthouse is safe in its’ new home for a long time to come.

Not far from the lighthouse is a really cool feature of nature on Hatteras Point.  This is where the cape is at its’ widest and it is shaped sort of like a dog-leg.  The waters off the point are where the cool Labrador Current flow from the north and the warmer Gulf Stream currents meet.  It’s possible to actually view where the 2 meet up and the fishing is supposed to be great here also.

So far we are enjoying our time here and will continue our story next time.

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