Several weeks ago Lou Ann and I made an excursion to Hatteras. We stopped at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum which is still under construction but open to the public. Just inside the main entrance is the Cape Hatteras lighthouse's original 1st order Fresnel lens. It is quite impressive.
In the late 1800's my great-grandfather, James Howard, was keeper of the Hatteras Inlet Life Saving Station. (Although it washed away in the mid 1950's, you can still see the pilings out in the ocean on the north end of Ocracoke.) Thanks to Bill Marsh of Suffolk, Virginia I have Captain Jim's original shipwreck reports which I carried with me to show to the museum's director, Joe Schwarzer.
Together we perused the reports and toured the museum, including sections not yet completed. We had an opportunity to see a number of artifacts, including the large metal capstan from the Carroll A. Deering, the Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks, which wrecked in 1921.
I had always heard that more than 500 ships met their end off the coast of North Carolina. I was surprised to learn that the number is more than three times that figure. It is sobering to remember the tragedies, the lives lost, and the bravery and heroism of the surfmen and keepers of the Outer Banks Life Saving Stations.
If you have an opportunity to visit the museum, walk in and take a look around. The building is still under construction, but admission is free. At completion this will be a state of the art museum, a must-stop for anyone curious about shipwrecks and the many dramatic rescues along the Outer Banks.
[Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Old Toothbrush Man, published August 01, 2005. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news080105.htm.]