Porpoises are a common off-shore sight just beyond the breakers, especially in the winter. Once in a great while we see a whale migrating by. We might even spot a seal now and then. But camels?
In 1827 the "North Carolina General Assembly House of Representatives Committee on Occacock Inlet" recommended using camels to to help carry vessels across Ocracoke Inlet.
Lest you think I am jesting, this is the exact wording of their report:
"If it should be too expensive to remove or deepen the shoals [in the inlet], the use of the contrivances to which the Hollanders have given the expressive name 'Camels,' will carry vessels over them with ease and safety."
As you will have no doubt figured out, a "camel" in this context is not a humped back ungulate. The ship's camel, invented in 1690 by the Dutchman, Meeuwis Meindertsz Bakker, was designed to allow ships to navigate shallow water. Basically a large wooden box filled with water, a camel was positioned on each side of a sailing ship and secured to the hull. The water was then pumped out of the camel, which caused the camel to float, thus raising the ship and allowing it to pass over shoals. You can see a diagram here: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/maritime-history. (Scroll down to about the middle of the page.)
To my knowledge, camels were never employed at Ocracoke Inlet, in spite of the committee's report, though maybe they were.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Rondthalers of Ocracoke Island. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032112.htm.