Thursday, November 01, 2007

Across the Inlet

Yesterday I accompanied twenty-one teachers to Portsmouth, the abandoned village on the south side of Ocracoke inlet. It was the perfect day -- just cool enough for a light jacket in the morning; t-shirt weather by mid afternoon. And hardly a mosquito to be felt! Almost unheard of. We walked unmolested to the Salter home, the post office, the school, the Dixon home, the church, and the US Life Saving Station.

One of the teachers played a hymn on the church piano, we walked up into the tower at the station to survey the village and the sound, and we marveled at the high tide lines on the wooden marker outside the post office.

At times it seemed as if we might be standing among the citizens, the children, the life savers, and the fishermen of this small, isolated village that two hundred years ago was bustling with commerce and the daily activities of a thriving seaport town. But today Portsmouth is one of this country's last refuges for peace and quiet. The houses are vacant now; the church bell is silent; the Life Saving Station is empty; and the sandy lanes are quiet. It is the perfect retreat from the busy-ness of the modern world.

Our latest monthly newsletter is Lou Ann's story of commercial clamming with 13 year old Morty. You can read it here.


  1. Anonymous10:35 AM

    I totally agree with your statement that "at times it seemed as if we might be standing among the citizens. . ." That is exactly how I felt when I visited Portsmouth. It's like a journey back in time. Some call Portsmouth a ghost town but to me it serves of a reminder of what was and what could be.

    Wish I could have been there.


  2. Anonymous1:32 PM


    Your entry today sparked a few questions about daily life on Portsmouth Island in modern times. For example, are there not a few updated homes maintained/used by private, off-island owners? Aren't there some "permanent" (i.e., day-to-day) residents who live on the island? I thought National Park Service personnel who work around the village live there, but perhaps they too commute, like so many of us. And what about maintenance/services on the island? When I visited several years ago, we chatted a bit with maintenance personnel who were tooling about on ATVs. Do those folk work year round? Do you know if there's reliable cell phone coverage in/around the village. (I know, why would anyone WANT such an intrusion there, but my mind was just wandering in terms of a worst-case scenario...could day-trippers make an emergency call in dire circumstances?) And finally--for now--the island extends far southward, beyond the village; any insight into what lies beyond? Is it barren to the southern tip? As always, thanks in advance for your consideration.