Friday, May 25, 2018

Ballast Stones

There are no indigenous rocks or stones on Ocracoke Island...just sand. However, visitors to the island may notice football-size rocks in local yards and gardens. These rocks may also occasionally be found under water or along the sound shore. They are ballast stones.

Ballast Stone Wall @ Magic Bean Coffee Shop

According to A Naval Encyclopædia: Comprising a Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases; Biographical Notices, and Records of Naval Officers; Special Articles of Naval Art and Science,
ballast is "a heavy substance employed to give a ship sufficient hold on the water to give her stability."

During the Colonial Era sailing ships left North Carolina loaded with lumber, shingles, tobacco, and other goods, but, because there was only a limited market for manufactured goods in coastal North Carolina, incoming ships carried ballast, usually rocks or stones. Of course, the ballast needed to be thrown overboard before loading outbound cargo.  

According to William S. Powell in, NCPedia, "[j]ettisoned stones began to clog the harbors so badly that in 1769 North Carolina political leader Richard Caswell presented a bill in the colonial Assembly to appoint a ballast master who would regulate this activity in the vicinity of Ocracoke Inlet. The problem persisted, however, and in 1784 the General Assembly passed an act that prohibited ballast stones from being thrown into the channel of the Cape Fear River. Thereafter, before docking, ships were required to dispose of their ballast prior to reaching the low watermark."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:


  1. What about those large stones at the school next to health center?

    1. That's something I will have to investigate!

  2. Anonymous5:35 PM

    interesting. Philip are there any updates or progress on the island inn project?

  3. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Google Click on Current Events. There is an article written on the 23rd about the Island Inn.

  4. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Hold the phone. Congratulations of Being #2 Dr Beach has released his top beach list.. now what exactly is beach sand composed of.......if the internet is to be believed silicon dioxide in the form of Quartz--grains of quartz and other Minerals broken seashells and I suppose salts tooo no igneous rocks sedimentary rocks or metamorphic rock in the Original mix here I say, In florida we live on a bed of ooolite limestone and clay which decides not to be here one day and a sinkhole develops to have its say!


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