Saturday, December 30, 2023

1946 Civilian Service Award

Islander Kathi O'Neal Weiss recently shared with me the following Civilian Service Award presented to her father, Leroy O'Neal, in 1946. It is the story of her father's heroic act to save a fellow worker who nearly drowned. The story is reprinted from the “Binnacle,” an in-house publication of the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On a small island about 2 miles wide, south of Cape Hatteras, and off the coast of North Carolina is situated the town of Ocracoke, population 600. Not so well known perhaps as New Bedford or Gloucester, the mere mention of which creates vivid impressions of great whaling and fishing fleets and zestful tales of the daring, fortitude, hardships and adventure of its hardy seamen. Nevertheless, this small community of Ocracoke, long steeped in the rich and colorful traditions of the sea, has for decades provided seafarers whose dependence upon their natural heritage is sufficient for any occasion. The recent exploit of one of the island’s native sons is but added testimony to this fact.

Leroy O’Neal, age 17, and a deckhand on the Dredge CLATSOP since February 1946, was engaged in helping Launchman Allen B. Williams take condemned property aboard the CLATSOP’S launch on 4 April 1946. Without warning, a heavy seaway, caused by a passing tugboat, parted the launch painter [a rope that is attached to the bow of a dinghy, or other small boat, and used for tying up or towing] causing the launch to capsize. O’Neal jumped overboard clear of the launch. Williams, however, was trapped inside the launch cabin entangled by old condemned rope and other ship’s gear. Meanwhile O’Neal, swimming some distance away, observed that Williams had not followed, and quickly realized the man had been trapped. Giving little thought to the dangers of the thrashing dredge propeller, O’Neal returned to the disabled craft, which had drifted toward the stern of the dredge. Kicking in the side cabin windows he assisted Williams out of his serious predicament.

Mr. O’Neal has been commended by the district Engineer for his quick thinking and splendid performance which narrowly averted a fatal accident. 


Monday, November 27, 2023

Crossing Hatterass Inlet, 1930s

Some years ago I acquired this screenshot from a home movie of a family towing a raft with their car across Hatteras Inlet in the 1930s.

I thought this photo would remind our readers how fortunate we are today to have access to modern ferries.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Ocracoke Childbirth, 1971

From a newspaper account of an island delivery in 1971:

"Mrs. Dorothy Williams of Ocracoke had what could be called a very rough delivery. A 30-foot Coast Guard boat, which had picked up Mrs. Williams to take her to Hatteras to have her baby, was immobilized in heavy seas after running onto shoals. An open 17-footer tried but was unable to get along side the boat due to heavy seas and wind. Finally, an amphibious vehicle of he Coast guard rolled aboard [I think they meant "alongside"] the Coast Guard boat, bringing Dr. Dan Burroughs who delivered the baby in knee-deep water." 

US Coast Guard 30-footer:


 US Coast Guard Amphibious "Duck" Boat (all-wheel drive utility vehicle with dual rear axles):


Monday, November 13, 2023

Two Photos

Just a few days ago I took the following photo standing on the edge of Ride the Wind's parking area, looking out toward Silver Lake harbor. If you zoom in you can see the small Meeker cottage (with porch) on the left, between the first break in the trees and shrubs. On the other side of the larger shrub in the center you can see the former US Coast Guard Station (now the NC Center for the Advancement of Teachers).

The following photo, taken from about the same location, is a post card from sometime in the late 1950s. The Meeker cottage and the US Coast Guard station are clearly visible in the distance, as is the old store and post office (extreme right) and the Community Store (to the left of the store/post office), the tower of Berkley Manor, and Jack Willis' store (now the Working Watermen's Exhibit) further to the left.

Without vintage photos it is difficult to image the amount of vegetation that has grown up on Ocracoke (in spite of periodic flooding) over the last 50-60 years.

Monday, November 06, 2023

1938 Erosion Control

Hello! It is Philip here, back after more than two years! It's a long story -- about lots of things, including mostly how the Blogger "Post +" button disappeared, and how I finally located the obscure link that allowed me to make new posts! Anyway, I'm back, occasionally, not every day as in the past, but at least now and then. So, for today's post: 

I recently came across a December 1938 document, "Future Work Program and Plans for the Beach Erosion Control Project." This paper is about construction of erosion control dunes in Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Cartaret counties. Most people are familiar with the row of dunes between NC12 and the ocean, although other "dykes" were created or planned for the sound side. 

The author of the paper writes that, "In carrying out erosion control work on Occracoke we have encountered some of the most difficult problem[s] of the entire project." There were two areas of primary concern: on the northeastern end of Ocraocke Island from Hatteras Inlet to about 2 1/2 miles southwest; and on the southwest end of the island. 

The paper goes on to report that, "The [low, sandy] flats on the west end of the island extend from the hammocks [near the present-day NPS campground] Ocracoke Inlet, a distance of 5 1/2 miles in length and approximately 3/4 mile in width. During very high Ocean tides the water flows over these flats in several places, and after high north winds the Sound waters flow over the flats to the Ocean. These tides generally cover the flats as a whole." 

The following 1883 US Coast Guard Chart illustrates this area called "The Plains." In case you missed it, you can read more about this issue in our February 2022 Newsletter, Sand Barriers.

1883 Chart