Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dead Lights

Every now and then I come across an unusual nautical term. In the following Public Instrument of Protest*, dated Oct 30, 1749, the term "dead light" is used:

"Nevertheless the violence of the wind and seas kept sd ship from driving her anchor not holding, which obliged master and crew cut away the cable to prevent the, ship driving on the north breaker of Ocracoke Bar, a dangerous shoal, notwithstanding all their endeavors, the sd ship was drove on the north breaker of Ocracoke Bar, where she beat her rudder off, and part of her sheathing, that the sea being very high and boisterous popped them several times and tore in their dead lights, that the ship malting [making??] a great deal of water, obliged them to keep both pumps going.In this condition and - where they continued until one o'clock of 8th of October, when sd ship Dolphin was drove by the violence of the wind and sea on shore on Ocracoke Island."

According to Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition, a dead light is:
  1. a bull's-eye let into the deck or hull of a vessel to admit light to a cabin
  2. a shutter of wood or metal for sealing off a porthole or cabin window

*Ellen Marie Fulcher Cloud, on her web site (, notes that, "In the early days of shipping, there was no insurance to cover damages and loss of ships or cargo.The Masters of ships, being hundreds of miles from homeport, and having no way to report such damages to the owners, would enter port at the nearest courthouse.They would record such damages with the register of deeds, so as to protect themselves from being sued or imprisoned when returning to homeport.

"These protests are in most cases the only records of severe storms that hit our coast and of piracy at sea.These records have also been found in private journals, attorney's files, Colonial Records, and loose papers."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an article about one of the early July 4th Parades written by Alice Rondthaler in 1953. It is accompanied by vintage photos.You can read the Newsletter here:   


  1. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Can I use my smart phone Pokemon Go app
    on OI. If not, I hope it does not affect vacation plans of millions of visitors.

  2. Julie S.5:13 PM

    Was just wondering about Cousin Blanche. Haven't heard any "Cousin B" stories recently so assume she is still off the island recouping?