Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Not long ago I discovered this jellyfish washed up on the beach. I didn't know what species of jellyfish this was, but I thought it especially beautiful.

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, "Few marine creatures are as mysterious and intimidating as jellyfish. Though easily recognized, these animals are often misunderstood and feared by beach goers, even though most jellyfish in South Carolina [and North Carolina] waters are harmless." You can read more here

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Navy Base

While spending time on Ocracoke you might hear someone mention the National Park Service docks on Silver Lake Harbor. However, if you are speaking with native islanders you will more likely hear the docks referred to as the Base Docks.

US Navy Base Docks
courtesy Ocracoke Preservation Society

A U.S. Navy Base on Ocracoke was commissioned on October 9, 1942. On January 16, 1944 it was converted to an Amphibious Training Base, and in 1945 it was converted to a Combat Information Center. At one time more than 500 Navy personnel were stationed at Ocracoke. The Base was closed in 1946.

In his book, "Ocracoke Island, It's People, the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy Base During World War II" Earl O'Neal includes several photos of the Base taken in 1947 by LCDR Henning A. Rountree, Jr. USNR RET. The pictures were sent to Ocracoke residents, Wahab & Elizabeth Howard. Their daughter, Elizabeth Howard Chamberlin, submitted the photos for publication on-line. You can view them here:

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mailboat Aleta

This month we share with our readers a wonderful web site with photos and stories about the mailboat Aleta. You can not only read a delightful description of this iconic vessel, but you can also listen to 7 short audio recordings of interviews with Ellen Marie Cloud, daughter of one of the Aleta's captains. She relates first-hand memories of coming to Ocracoke in the early 20th century.

Click on the following link to go directly to the page:

Many thanks to the folks at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center for sharing this information on the Web!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Black-bellied Plover

The black-bellied plover, also known as the grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) breeds in the Arctic regions, but winters in southern coastal areas. I spotted this black-bellied plover (from late April through August they have a black breast and belly; they molt to grey in fall and winter) a few days ago on the ocean beach.
This bird is the largest plover in North America, and its distinctive markings make for a striking sight on our beaches.

You can read more about the black-bellied plover here

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

MST in a Day

Last week I wrote about the North Carolina Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST). This 1,175 mile trail extends from the mountains to the coast. Just over 14 miles of the trail are on Ocracoke Island.

Photo by Paul Travis

On Saturday, September 9, 2017, several hundred people will tackle the entire 1,175 miles of the trail by hiking various short legs. Legs average 3-5 miles, which means that just about anybody, of any age, can hike, & can find a suitable leg (dirt trail, road, greenway, beach, flat or steep.)

If you will be on the island Saturday, September 9, please consider hiking one of the three legs of the trail on Ocracoke Island (one is 4.5 miles long; one 3.2; and one 6.6).  Of course, many other segments of the trail are available to hike. To register to hike, and for more information, please visit the MTS web site.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


The US Navy established a sizable base on the island in 1942.

Some years ago I heard the following story.

When WWII ended, the base was decommissioned. Although the government hired a watchman to protect their abandoned property, it soon became apparent that there wasn't any effort to keep the buildings from quickly deteriorating, which distressed a people accustomed to reusing material and making do with what was available.

A few islanders discovered that the watchman had a craving for spirits. When he was sufficiently "under the weather" and asleep, those "lawless Outer Bankers" went to work with crow bars and hammers. One islander recalled it as the "midnight requisitions."

One particularly resourceful islander decided to remove an entire building!  He had purchased an Army surplus Power Wagon, and went to the base and loaded the small building onto a boat trailer. As he was hauling the building down what is now British Cemetery Road, the Power Wagon stalled and quit. He was unable to restart the vehicle, so he unhooked the trailer, leaving it and the building in the sandy lane. He and friends pushed the truck to his yard.

Of course, the next morning the watchman noticed the building gone, and soon located it in the lane. When confronted, the perpetrator claimed innocence, noting with insouciance, "Why there's no way it could have been me; that old truck over there, it won't even start!"

I never did hear what happened to the building. It is probably in someone's yard today, being used as a storage shed.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Two exciting collaborative projects studying offshore currents and the Gulf Stream have been initiated by the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) and the National Science Foundation, along with other partners. The NSF's project is called "Observational and Modeling Study of the Physical Processes Driving Exchanges between the Shelf and the Deep Ocean at Cape Hatteras" (PEACH). 

The CSI project is looking into the possibility of using an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, and water driven turbines to harness the energy of the Gulf Stream to generate power. According to the Coastal Studies Institute "the movement of water [in the Gulf Stream] is some 45 times greater than the flow of every river on earth...[and harnessing] just 0.1 percent of the available power would yield the equivalent of 150 nuclear power plants." For more information see Kipp Tabb's article in the Coastal Review

Gabriel Matthias of the University of Georgia
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
poses on the beach at Hatteras Island,
next to one of the antennas used in the radar
part of the PEACH study. Photo: Catherine Kozak

According to Catherine Kozak in a subsequent article in the Coastal Review, the complementary PEACH project "is meant to answer critical questions about the ocean’s response to climate change and the influence of marine ecosystem dynamics." Radar outposts have been set up at four locations on Hatteras and Ocracoke. Kozak explains that  "it’s the latest in an ambitious collaborative scientific project to decipher the dynamics of the water exchange between the continental shelf and the Gulf Stream, the ocean speedway that nearly brushes the crook of the Outer Banks.” For more information see Catherine Kozak's article in the Coastal Review

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Curlews and Willets

Visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore are often fortunate to see various shorebirds and wading birds along the beach or in the marsh. Long-billed curlews can occasionally be seen, but they are not as common as Willets which frequent Ocracoke year around, and can be abundant on the beach.

Long-billed Curlew, photo by Frank Schulenburg

Willet, photo by Dick Daniels

Visitors to the Seashore might be surprised to learn that curlews and willets were hunted extensively in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The following promotion was included in an 1890 advertisement for the Ponder Hotel on Ocracoke Island: "Sportsmen find game in abundance. It is remarked that the curlew and willet shooting surpasses the quail shooting of California." I can remember hearing my father (he was born in 1911) saying that shorebirds were "good eating!"

Today, curlews, willets, and other shorebirds are protected species. Their numbers have increased in recent decades, although loss of habitat still threatens their long-term survival.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Friday, May 12, 2017

British Cemetery

Today at 11 am, a ceremony to remember the crew of the HMT Bedfordshire, an armed British trawler that was sunk by German U-boats, will be held on Ocracoke at the British Cemetery. Organized by the War Graves Committee on Hatteras, this ceremony honors sailors who lost their lives off the coast here May 11, 1942.

Following is an article about this tragedy that appeared in The Coastland Times, Friday, May 23, 1952:


May is the month of Memorial Day and a time for decorating the resting places of revered and loved ones. Public ceremonies will be held at many of our National cemeteries where those who sacrificed their lives for their country are laid to rest. And although no such public ceremony will take place at the little British graveyard on Ocracoke Island, far away in England are those who will think lovingly of dear ones buried here and at other places along the Carolina Coast--victims of the intensive submarine attacks ten years ago in May 1942 when British and American ships were desperately patrolling off the Atlantic Coast.

There are several wartime graves upon the Carolina Reefs bearing this May 1942 date. Some are identified; some are marked "Unknown". A grave at Cape Hatteras bears the inscription "Michael CAIRNS, May 7, 1942". CAIRNS was identified as one of the crew of the British San Delfino sunk by a German submarine 20 miles north of Diamond Lightship Station buoy in late April 1942. The ship was carrying high test gasoline from a Texas port to Liverpool. CAIRNS was the fourth engineer aboard his ship. At the same time other bodies, one identified as that of Maldwyn JONES, gun crewman, came ashore on Core Banks and were buried in Morehead City

The little British graveyard on Ocracoke Island contains four graves, two of which are marked "Unknown". A third bears the name of Lt. Thomas CUNNINGHAM; the fourth that of Stanly R. CRAIG, AB. The words "Royal Navy" and "Body found May 14, 1942" are inscribed on all four of the bronze plaques on concrete crosses erected at the time of burial. All bodies were identified as members of the crew of HMS Bedfordshire which disappeared with all aboard enroute from Norfolk to Morehead City, it's temporary home port. A body found at Cape Hatteras at about the same time was also identified as off the Bedfordshire, though the name of the sailor is unknown. Another body was found on a shoal far up Pamlico Sound and was buried at Swan Quarter. Rites at Ocracoke were held by the late Amasa FULCHER, prominent layman of the local Methodist church. A year later at Mrs. CUNNINGHAM's request, a Catholic service was held by the Navy Chaplain, then stationed here.

Land for the British burials was given by Mrs. Alice WILLIAMS near the WILLIAMS family graveyard. Markers were made by the T.A. Loving Construction Co. then building the Navy Base nearby. One Ocracoker, by strange coincidence, had talked with Lt. CUNNINGHAM a night or two before the Bedfordshire left Norfolk. They had met at a crowded table in a restaurant where Wahab HOWARD had told them something of Ocracoke Island. He had noticed the watch and signet ring on the hand of one. It was this same watch and ring together with a bank book found in his pocket that identified CUNNINGHAM as one of the victims of the submarine disaster. The Bedfordshire was due at Morehead City one day later but never reached that destination and none of its officers and crew lived to tell the story of its disaster.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mountains to Sea Trail

While walking the winter beach several months ago I spied a gentleman and two women coming towards me. We all stopped at the same place to watch a large pod of dolphins swimming back and forth just beyond the breakers. As we were ready to move on, the gentleman handed me his card. He was Jerry Barker, Board Member of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina.

Photo by David Pozo, courtesy Mountain to Sea Trail

I had heard of the Trail, but didn't know any details, so when I returned home I did some research. As their web site explains, the Trail, which is an official part of the state parks system, "stretches 1175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, stopping at many of our state’s most beautiful places along the way." Ocracoke is included in Segment 18, The Outer Banks, from the Cedar Island Ferry to Jockey's Ridge, which the web site describes as "rich with history, wildlife, and scenery."

Photo by Paul Travis, courtesy Mountain to Sea Trail

On further reading of their web site I discovered this paragraph: "What can the MST mean to you? It may mean a short walk with your family near your home. It may mean a weekend backpacking trip with friends. Or it may mean a challenging, inspiring trek of 1175 miles across North Carolina. However you experience the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the beauty of North Carolina will fill you with wonder and joy."

So, check out the Mountains to Sea Trail. Whether you decide to hike the entire 1175 miles, enjoy a shorter camping trip, or simply stroll along the beach at Ocracoke, think kindly of the folks who help preserve and maintain those special places in North Carolina for our enjoyment. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lighthouse Privy

According to a National Park Service Cultural Landscape Report on the Ocracoke Light Station, "One of the most essential support buildings included in the original 1823 specifications [for the construction of the Ocracoke Lighthouse] was a privy."

Lighthouse Privy, 2017


The Report goes on to say, "[The privy] is recorded on the earliest site plan of 1890 and...[in] 1893.... It was frame with a wood foundation.... Plat maps show that the privy was always located along the east property line although, typical of privies, it was moved several times in the general area."

The privy was repaired or rebuilt several times, including in the early 1880s, 1913, and 1916. The privy was totally reconstructed, according to the original design, in 2004 and 2010.

Although most visitors to the Ocracoke Light Station focus their attention on the lighthouse, several other structures are located on the property. The privy can be seen to the left of the keeper's quarters as you walk up the boardwalk toward the lighthouse.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Lithia Water

"Buffalo Lithia Waters, Nature's Materia Medica." So reads the embossing on this large bottle found on Ocracoke by Bradford Gaskins some years ago.

Brad showed me the bottle, but didn't know any more about it other than that he found it on his family land. I promised to do some research. I soon learned that the bottle, produced by "Virginia Buffalo Lithia Springs," contained spring water sold as “Natures Great Specific for Dyspepsia and Gout”

According to a web site I discovered, "The first European-Americans to visit Buffalo Springs in Virginia and record their visit are believed to have been a survey group led by William Byrd II in 1728. In his diary, later to be published as 'The History of the Dividing Line: a Journey to Eden', Byrd poetically wrote that the waters of Buffalo Springs was 'what Adam drank in Paradise, by the help of which we perceived our appetites to mend, our slumbers to sweeten, the stream of life to run cool and peaceably in our veins, and if ever we dreamt of women, they were kind.' Byrd's survey party also sighted many signs of buffalo near the springs, hence the name Buffalo Springs."

For several decades after 1876 the water was bottled and sold in thousands of stores. Sales plummeted after the Pure Food and Drug Act determined that the water had no medicinal value.  

You can read more about Buffalo Lithia Waters here:

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Monday, May 08, 2017

Diamond City

About 45 miles SW of Ocracoke (as the sea gull flies) lay the small settlement called Diamond City.  Several hundred people lived there, on the eastern end of Shackleford Banks.  Although people of European descent had acquired the spit of sand as early as 1723, it wasn't until about 1885 that the settlement acquired its name. Shore-based whaling had become the primary industry there, and by 1899 about 500 people called Diamond City home.

Cutting up a Dead Whale

It was in August of that year that the powerful San Ciriaco hurricane struck with a vengeance, causing widespread destruction. When the storm was over, most of the islanders began moving away. The last of the residents had left by 1902, most having relocated to Harkers Island, Salter Path and Morehead City.

The following report is extracted from The Beaufort [NC] News, September 29, 1938:

“Diamond City today is nothing but sand dunes. All of the houses are gone. Occasionally when the winds or tides sweep across the sands the bleached bones of many of our earlier citizens are exposed to view.

 “Those bones which are lifeless and the goats which are owned by Uncle Coochy Chadwick, which are everything but lifeless, plus the sea-gulls are all that one finds where…Diamond City the whaling town was once, before it was destroyed by a storm or just abandoned by people who preferred to move to Beaufort or Harkers Island.”

Click here for an excellent history of Diamond City.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Friday, May 05, 2017

Howard Street Lyrics

Yesterday I posted a short video of Fiddler Dave's performance of his original song "Howard Street." It received several lovely comments. One reader asked for the lyrics. I have posted them below. They are also available, along with much more, on the Molasses Creek web site.

"Howard Street" is from the album Best of Molasses Creek: 1993-2000 ~ 2001.

Howard Street
Fiddler Dave Tweedie
This was written for a special place (Ocracoke Island), and a special person in my life.
David Tweedie -lead vocal, fiddle, electric cello
Kitty Mitchell -bass
Gary Mitchell -guitar
Chris Frank -piano


Howard St.
By Fiddler Dave Tweedie

I jumped the fence on Howard Street
And ran to where I knew she would be waiting
Play the lover, questions why
Live oaks twisting towards the sky, now fading
And in a dream they came to me from countless years before
Simple men and women who have spilled across the door of this old house
And I am one

Her people are as old as time
But I am new and pay the fine with patience
My history seems to start today
And a child late from morning’s play must hasten
Old fishermen on Silver Lake walk barefoot through the sand
And only by remaining still will they notice that I stand
Among them now. I know the spring by turning leaves
The oaks they shed for joy and not for grieving
The paneled house will mold with dew
But underneath the beaded board looks new
Hurricanes and winds of change can sting with
mighty blow
Those who will escape their wrath
Like oceans they must flow and so must I

Graves they lie along this lane
Compass need not guide where we must go
A city hides their dead away
But here old friends surround us like the snow
The thunder of the ocean now consumes my every pore
I must in turn embrace it as I spill across the door
Of this small town

Frogs sing sweetly in the night
Stars breathe free far from city lights
Oyster shells upon the road
Like sunken cisterns memories still hold
Past and present they join hands around this magic place
As I return to doorstep
And the memory of her face before me now
And I am here
And she is here

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Howard Street

Any trip to Ocracoke would be incomplete without a visit to Howard Street. No other island thoroughfare has the history and charm it boasts. This narrow sandy lane is lined with historic homes, several of the largest live oaks on the island, and numerous family cemeteries dating from the early 1800s.

Howard Street has even been memorialized in a beautiful song by Fiddler Dave Tweedie of the island's Molasses Creek Band.

Of course, Village Craftsmen, our gallery of fine American handcrafts is also located on Howard Street.

When visiting the island be sure to include a stroll down historic Howard Street.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Two Unrelated Items

Below are two items you may have missed if you are not on Facebook:
  • This island news was the talk of the village for a few days, and was picked up by the A.P.: "On a North Carolina island, chase ends at dock with arrest
"Authorities say a woman led police on a high-speed chase on a North Carolina coastal island but found out it's hard to elude the law when the only highway leads to a ferry dock." You can read the full story here.
  • Tom Pahl made this photo on Saturday after he was hauled up to the top of the mast of the Wilma Lee to inspect the rigging: 

A job not for the faint of heart!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Mr. Tommie

In 2013 I published an article about the history of the Ocracoke Post Office. The island's 19th postmaster was Thomas Wallace (Mr. Tommie) Howard (1878-1972). He was appointed October 21, 1902, and held the position for nearly 40 years, until he retired in 1941.

Following are portions of Mr. Tommie's obituary:

"Last rites were held on Friday, November 10, [1972], 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, Ocracoke, for Thomas Wallace Howard, the island's oldest resident, age 94, who died on November 6....

" 'Mr. Tommie' as he was affectionately called, was born at Ocracoke in 1878.... His father died when Tom Wallace was six months old. He was the only boy, with four sisters....The young lad worked in a store for many years as a clerk. At one time he carried the mail in a 22-ft. sailboat from Ocracoke to Avon, and sometimes with no wind blowing, he had to row the entire distance.

"He was appointed postmaster in 1900 [should be 1902] and served until retirement in 1941.

Mr. Tommie at his Post Office

"In 1911 he was married to Nancy Elizabeth Williams of Fairfield, who predeceased him. She, too, was a staunch and Christian citizen of Ocracoke and was familiarly known as 'Miss Bessie.' They had three children, Lafayette, who predeceased them, Robert Wahab Howard, of Ocracoke and Eleanor Nell Nelson of Tucson Arizona; six grand-children, and twelve great-grandchildren....

"Both 'Mr. Tommie and 'Miss Bessie' were members of the Methodist Church. He served as a Sunday School teacher, choir leader, and member of the Official board. Since he carried in his memory a great deal of the history of the island and its people, visitors from elsewhere turned to him for interesting stories of the past...."

Mr. Tommie's granddaughter, Betty Helen Howard Chamberlin, and her husband, George, own and operate Captain's Landing Motel, on the site of the old Ocracoke Store (and early Post Office).

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:    

Monday, May 01, 2017

NC General Statutes - Chapter 68 Article 4

At one time Ocracokers used the undeveloped area of the island as an open range for livestock. As late as the 1950s horses, sheep, cattle, and other livestock roamed freely on the island. That changed in 1958 by an act of the North Carolina Legislature. Only the ponies on Ocracoke Island and Shakleford Banks were excepted.

North Carolina General Assembly, General Statutes, Chapter 68, Article 4: 

Stock along the Outer Banks.

§ 68-42.  Stock running at large prohibited; certain ponies excepted.
From and after July 1, 1958, it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to allow his or its horses, cattle, goats, sheep, or hogs to run free or at large along the outer banks of this State. This Article shall not apply to horses known as marsh ponies or banks ponies on Ocracoke Island, Hyde County.....Saving and excepting those animals known as "banker ponies" on the island of Ocracoke owned by the Boy Scouts and not exceeding 35 in number. (1957, c. 1057, s. 1; 1997-456, s. 9.)

§ 68-43.  Authority of Secretary of Environmental Quality to remove or confine ponies on Ocracoke Island....
Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Article, the Secretary of Environmental Quality shall have authority to remove or cause to be removed from Ocracoke Island ...all ponies known as banks ponies or marsh ponies if and when he determines that such action is essential to prevent damage to the island. In the event such a determination is made, the Secretary, in lieu of removing all ponies, may require that they be restricted to a certain area or corralled so as to prevent damage to the island. In the event such action is taken, the Secretary is authorized to take such steps and act through his duly designated employees or such other persons as, in his opinion, he deems necessary and he may accept any assistance provided by or through the National Park Service.  (1957, c. 1057, s. 11/2; 1973, c. 1262, s. 86; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; 1989, c. 727, s. 218(10); 1997-443, s. 11A.119(a); 1997-456, s. 10; 2015-241, s. 14.30(v).)

§ 68-44.  Penalty for violation of G.S. 68-42.
Any person, firm or corporation violating the provisions of G.S. 68-42 shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. (1957, c. 1057, s. 2; 1993, c. 539, s. 541; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)

§ 68-45.  Impounding stock.
The provisions of G.S. 68-24 to 68-30, relative to the impounding of stock running at large shall apply with equal force and effect along the outer banks of this State. (1957, c. 1057, s. 3.)

§ 68-46.  "Outer banks of this State" defined.
For the purposes of this Article, the terms "outer banks of this State" shall be construed to mean all of that part of North Carolina which is separated from the mainland by a body of water, such as an inlet or sound, and which is in part bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. (1957, c. 1057, s. 4.)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: