Friday, March 27, 2009

More Trivia

Visitors to the island sometimes ask about our source of drinking water. For most of Ocracoke's history water was collected in cisterns. In earliest times residents used barrels & lidded wooden troughs to collect rain water that ran off the roof. Later, large slatted wooden cylindrical cisterns, held together with steel bands and topped with conical roofs, were employed. Others built brick cisterns with vaulted tops. By the 1950s people were building rectangular concrete block cisterns and giving them double duty as porches.

By 1977 Ocracoke had a municipal water system with a deep well (over 600 feet deep) that taps into the Castle Hayne aquifer (click here to view a map). The sophisticated reverse osmosis treatment facility near the water tank now provides pure water to most island homes. A few residents have chosen to not hook up to city water, or live beyond the range of the present system. Many of these houses have new fiberglass cisterns.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of participating in the 2008 Christmas Bird Count on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here.

To read about Philip's new book, Digging up Uncle Evans, History, Ghost Tales, & Stories from Ocracoke Island, please click here.


  1. Anonymous6:39 PM

    Portions of the Shore On Ocracoke island have been closed to protect nesting shore birds. Now that the warning signs have been vandalized-- due to the court order, the area will now grow larger. Some would have you think environmentalists are deliberately knocking the signs down for that purpose. Can't be tipsy drivers, can't be mean spirited people -- it has to be the environmentalists -- Sounds like the ranchers and the farmers out west. Don't fence me in, let me run over the nesting shore birds I say, let them find someplace else to breed. That mindset is so sad . I wonder how many shore birds nest out there anyways.

  2. No doubt unrestricted vehicle use and other human activity contribute to the destruction of shore bird nesting habitat. But, just to be clear, the National Park Service has been the major contributor to habitat destruction. When I was a child terns, plovers, and other shore birds nested on the tidal flats from the South Point to the campground area. Walking across the beach, you felt like you were in a war zone, as birds dive bombed you to keep you away from their nests.

    With the construction of the continuous row of artificial dunes, the vast area of tidal flats (known by locals as the Plains) was destroyed. By preventing periodic tidal overwash (for several miles at the Plains, as well as elsewhere) grasses, bushes, and cedars took over, eliminating the necessary environment for the birds to nest.

    Now, don't get me wrong. The damage has been done, and it is not realistic to try to convert the Plains back to tidal flats. And there are good reasons to protect the birds that continue to nest in the areas left to them.

    But knowing the history of the island's geology, the changes created by the NPS (to be fair, back in the 1950s no one could foresee the dramatic impact their decisions would have), and the present realities, maybe folks will have a better understanding of the issues and frustrations of people (especially locals who remember the beach before the mid 1950s).