Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Dark of Night

Ocracoke is one of those places where night can, at times, be truly night. Most Americans live in developed areas with street lights, porch lights, automobile headlights, and lights from nearby windows. Of course, Ocracoke has its share of "light pollution." But every once in a while I am reminded of the deep darkness that characterized an island night a half century ago.

Last night, at about 11:30 pm, Lou Ann and I left Gary & Kitty's house on our bikes. The darkness was almost complete. Although I know the lane well, after only a short distance I found myself off the pavement and in the sand. Lou Ann gave up on riding almost immediately and decided to walk her bike. I followed suit.

Before long we found enough light to re-mount our bikes. There was even sufficient ambient light down Howard Street. But I was saddened that our species has so conquered the night that it is rare to experience the inky blackness of midnight.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Black Squall, a brig loaded with circus animals that wrecked on Ocracoke in April of 1861. You can read it here.


  1. Anonymous4:41 PM

    I remember about 15 years ago taking a late night stroll on Ocracoke. I decided to walk to a drink machine and found myself on a very dark stretch of road. I continued to walk in the total darkness until I walked straight into a tree branch and just about scared myself to death. THAT WAS DARK. I love going to ocracoke and looking up at the stars. There always seems to be ten times as many there on a clear night.

  2. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I used to sneak over to the "Cop" house next-door to our dead end street cottage & unscrew the all-night porch light they'd leave on ;o)

    The carpet of stars was breathtaking. It looked like there were more stars than night sky.

  3. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Someone keeps sneaking over to my house at night and unscrewing my porch light.....

  4. Anonymous6:41 PM

    Philip, late birthday wishes from Bill in the Piedmont!

    When I purchased a mountain house several years ago, a neighbor said he would repair his security light in his yard if I would like him to because it kept going out. I later learned that another neighbor...you guessed it, kept unscrewing the bulb to preserve the mountain darkness! The whole fixture was finally removed by the owner and I don't think he ever suspected the sabotage.

  5. Anonymous9:07 AM

    Your latest entry reminded me of a thought I had last month while vacationing on Ocracoke -- that it might be nice to include a note in each rental-property welcoming package suggesting that folks turn off their outside lights once they're tucked in for the evening. The stargazing was terrific from the darkened side of our house, but the glow from our all-lights/all-night neighbors on the opposite side of the property was disappointing.

  6. Anonymous9:50 AM

    When I'm on Ocracoke, I often go down to the beach access across from the pony pasture in the middle of the night to look at the sky. Being near the center of the island, it can be one of the darkest spots. The Ocracoke Clear Sky Clock can be useful here as well.


  7. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I actually DID include a note in our cottage guestbook for renters to turn out the outdoor lights & go out & admire the night sky.

    I also asked them to conserve water by not washing their cars on the island. Thanks, Philip, for your diligent blog. It's my daily dose of island life.

    Say hi to Leslie & Sundae from Sheila, Ok? :o)


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