I have recently been reading Herman Melville's Moby Dick. In chapter 35 ("The Mast-Head") I read this sentence: "...[I]n the early times of the whale fishery, ere ships were regularly launched in pursuit of the game, the people of that island [Nantucket] erected lofty spars along the sea-coast, to which the lookouts ascended by means of nailed cleats, something as fowls go upstairs in a hen-house."
I was reminded of an image printed on a pitcher depicting the commercial enterprise that was established on Shell Castle island in the late 1700s/early 1800s. Note the lookout post,with a ring at the top for holding on. Unlike the lookout posts at Nantucket, the similar one at Shell Castle, in Pamlico Sound, was undoubtedly used by pilots for spotting ships offshore, not for looking for whales.
To see more photos of the pitcher, and more information about Shell Castle see: http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/MOH/vfpcgi.exe?IDCFile=/moh/DETAILS.IDC,SPECIFIC=48135,DATABASE=49292562.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Hurricane House and the Hurricane Boards. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072112.htm.