Monday, September 25, 2017


As of 5 am this morning Ocracoke is under a mandatory evacuation order for visitors because of approaching hurricane Maria which is expected to brush the Outer Banks with tropical storm force winds, heavy surf, some coastal flooding, and rip currents.

More information is available on our Facebook page.

Also look for more posts later today and in the next few days.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Springer's Point Cistern

The following 1733 map shows Ocacock Inlet and Ocacock Island. If you look carefully just above the "k" of "Ocacock Island" you will notice the word "well." Although wind and tide have reshaped Ocracoke Island over the intervening years, various people have speculated that this well was located in the vicinity of present day Springer's Point.

As it turns out the brick structure pictured below, now fitted with a heavy wooden cover, can be found at Springr's Point. Some people have theorized that this is the exact location of the old well.

Although I have never probed the depths of the structure, I always assumed it was an enclosed tank, or drinking water cistern, with a solid bottom, not a well.

The following document, a series of dates and notes (from 1878 to 1900) jotted down on the back of an envelope by E. D. Springer, should settle the matter.

Although it is difficult to make out from the photo, a notation entered after July 8, 1899, clearly reads "built cistern."

So, the brick structure at Springer's Point is a water cistern. But where was the well? We will probably never know for sure, but it may have been located on Springer's Point as well.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here:

Thursday, September 21, 2017


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a look at several noteworthy stairways in historic island homes.

You can read the Newsletter, and see more photos, here:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


When talking of pearls most people think of oysters. Of course, any shelled mollusk can produce natural pearls, but they are not common, at least not in clams. Nevertheless, diners occasionally discover pearls in Pamlico Sound clams. These five pearls were found over several decades by one islander:

I did not measure the pearls when I took the photo, but I am guessing the largest one was close to one centimeter in diameter.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:     

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ocracoke's Fresnel Lens

Yesterday I wrote about Winslow Lewis' reflecting-illuminating lamps that were installed in the Ocracoke Lighthouse in 1823. These were used in spite of their inferiority to the Fresnel Lens which was invented in 1822 by French physicist Augustin Fresnel.

The Fresnel Lens was a technological leap in lighthouse lighting. With a precise arrangement of glass bull's-eyes and prisms the light was concentrated into parallel rays that produced a much brighter beam from a single light source.

1872 Diagram showing how a Fresnel Lens works

In 1854 the Winslow Lamps in the Ocracoke Lighthouse were replaced with a fourth order Fresnel Lens.

Ocracoke's Fresnel Lens

There are six orders of Fresnel Lenses, based on their size and focal length. First order lenses are the largest.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:    

Monday, September 18, 2017

Winslow Lewis

When the Ocracoke Lighthouse was built, in 1823, it was fitted with fifteen Argand lamps and an equal number of parabolic reflectors and glass magnifying lenses. This arrangement was the creation of Winslow Lewis, a New England sea captain, engineer, and inventor.

19th Century Drawing of a Lewis Lamp

The drawing above shows the Argand Lamp in the center. The Argand Lamp (invented by Swiss-born physicist Aime Argand in 1782) used a circular wick placed between two thin concentric brass tubes, and enclosed within a glass chimney. To the right is the thin, silver-plated copper reflector. On the left is the lens. A reservoir to hold the oil is situated behind the reflector.

Unfortunately, Lewis' parabolic reflectors tended to warp, resulting in a spherical shape. And the lenses were quickly covered with soot, greatly reducing the luminosity. 

In 1849 ten lamps and twenty-one reflectors replaced the original apparatus. In was not until 1854 that a much more efficient  fourth order Fresnel Lamp replaced the original reflecting-illuminating lamps.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:    

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hatteras Jack

In his book, Legends of the Outer Banks, Charles Whedbee opens his chapter on a famous North Carolina dolphin (also called a porpoise on the Outer Banks), with these words: "For as many years as there have been deep water sailors, man has been fascinated by and strangely drawn to porpoises."

According to legend, in the late 18th century a remarkable albino dolphin  made it a point to greet sailing ships as they approached Hatteras Inlet. Captains soon discovered that the dolphin was poised to guide their ships through the inlet, making sure to navigate in the deeper channels and to avoid the sand bars that made the inlet so treacherous.

You can read a condensed version of the legend here:

Also, a regular reader of this blog, Robb Foster, wrote the following poem about Hatteras Jack:

Hatteras Jack 

When chatting with other old briny blokes 
Folks, who rarely have sailed this way 
I sense their undeniable fear 
They dread the inlet that’s north of here 

I once, was one who held such dread 
Pled to Poseidon “Keep us us safe to the quay” 
Passing along this oft shoaling coast 
When safely home, we all offered a toast 

One day a dash of white was spied 
Eyed one single point in the low of a sway 
He danced in the water and was marking a path 
To save us all from the inlet’s wrath 

We mariners talk, and the word spread quite fast 
Last were the few who infrequent this caye 
 “Follow this dolphin, from the sea to the sound” 
“Jack knows the safest of routes to be found” 

Rare are the days, but I still find those folks 
Blokes still reluctant when anchor’s at weigh 
These days, I explain, we’ll be sure on our tack 
Now that Neptune protects us with Hatteras Jack

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here: