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Hyde commissioners to hold special meeting on Monday

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The Hyde County Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, June 27, in the Hyde County Government Center, Multi-Use Room, Swan Quarter, and the Ocracoke Community Center. The public is welcome to attend in person and the meeting will also be live streamed via the County’s Facebook Live account.

The purpose of the meeting is to close out the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year, adopt the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year budget and tax rate, and renew expiring contracts.

According to the minutes of the budget workshop meetings, Hyde County Manager Kris Noble has proposed a $.10 property tax increase, raising the property tax rate to $.895 per $100 assessed valuation and a $.05 sales tax increase to fund a balanced 2022-2023 budget of $15,559,987.48.

In addition, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the Ocracoke Development Ordinance at its regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, or as soon thereafter as possible in the Hyde County Government Center, Multi-Use Room, and the Ocracoke Community Center.

The purpose of this hearing is to receive public comment on a proposed ordinance to establish a moratorium on issuing new food truck permits within the Ocracoke township until February 2023. The moratorium would give the Ocracoke Planning Board time to review and establish regulations.

Presubmitted comments are welcome until the next regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners on July 6. Comments may be mailed to Public Comment ODO Hearing at P.O. Box 188, Swan Quarter, NC 27885, emailed to publiccomment@hydecountync.gov or by leaving a voicemail at (252) 926-5288. Public comment will also be taken in person at the hearing.

Teresa Coffey O’Neal: 1962 to 2022

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Teresa Coffey O’Neal: 1962 to 2022

Teresa Marie Coffey O’Neal, 60, of Ocracoke died June 23, with her husband Albert by her side. 

Born on April 5, 1962, in Hollywood, California, Teresa was a daughter of James Lawrence “Larry” and Mary Angie Rohde Coffey. 

Teresa grew up in Southern California and graduated high school in Bend, Oregon. 

She returned to Malibu, California, to attend UCLA, and after graduating, she began a teaching career at Malibu Methodist School, where she taught for more than 18 years. 

In the summer of 1999, Teresa came to Ocracoke for a vacation to see some long-time friends. She quickly fell in love with Ocracoke and one of its local boys, Albert O’Neal. 

The next summer she returned and made Ocracoke her home, marrying Albert in 2002.  In 2003, Teresa and Albert purchased The Island Ragpicker and ran a successful business until the time of her death. 

Teresa was an active member of the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, and served as their treasurer for 17 years, until illness would no longer allow her to do so. 

Many people referred to Teresa as the “Bingo Queen.”  For many years, locals and visitors alike looked forward to the weekly Bingo game that was held in the Old Ocracoke Fire Department along Back Road where Teresa and Albert ran the show. 

This fundraiser and that of the annual Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department Firemen’s Ball were instrumental in financing the construction and completion of the new fire department building along Irvin Garrish Highway. 

Teresa, being a small business owner, served on the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association Board for two years.  During that time, she revived the nighttime Boat Parade, which typically is held the day after Thanksgiving.

She was also a leader for the Ocracoke Girl Scout Troop for six years and touched the lives of many of the island’s youth. 

Teresa also served on the board of directors for the Ocracoke Child Care Center for five years.  Coming from a teaching background, these positions were near and dear to Teresa’s heart.

The 2022 senior class of Ocracoke School at graduation on June 12 honored Teresa and Albert with their Community Service award.

In addition to her husband, Teresa is survived by her mother, Mary Coffey; sister Sheila Northgrave and husband Dennis; father and mother-in-law, Edward and Stella O’Neal; brothers-in-laws, Eddie O’Neal and wife Pam; Andy O’Neal and partner Cathy; sister-in-law, Stephanie O’Neal; nieces and nephews, Candice Northgrave; Ryan Northgrave and wife Ashley; Meghan Causey and husband Clay Causey; Chad O’Neal and wife, Erin and Nicole O’Neal. 

Also, great nieces and nephews, Jackson Causey; Case Northgrave; Sullivan Causey; Tucker Northgrave; Carter O’Neal; Kyler Luna and Amaya Luna. 

Also, Teresa’s lifelong friends, Linda Schicker and husband, Maurice Oehlsen and Janet “JuJu” Baker.

She was preceded in death by her father, James Lawrence “Larry” Coffey.

A celebration of life will be held later in the fall at a time to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 332, Ocracoke, NC 27960 or Ocracats, PO Box 993, Ocracoke, NC 27960.

Twiford Funeral Homes, Outer Banks is assisting the family with arrangements. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.TwifordFH.com.

Ocracoke events, live music June 20 to 26–updated

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Beautiful hydrangeas like these at the Village Craftsmen are in bloom all over Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

Monday, June 20
Equity Advisory Council inaugural meeting. A community advisory council aimed at promoting equity and enhancing services to the county. Open to the public. 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Ocracoke Community Center

Tuesday, June 21
Ocracoke Preservation Society Porch Talk: Ocracoke History by Al Scarborough, 1 pm
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Barefoot Wade, 7 pm

Wednesday, June 22
Ocracoke Community Library in Deepwater Theater: Baby/toddler/pre-school story time, 10 am
Ocracoke Preservation Society: Kids Kraft – Ocracoke Coloring Book, 10:30 am  
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Barefoot Wade, 7 pm

Thursday, June 23
Ocracoke Preservation Society: Donald Davis story telling group, 10:30 am 
Ocracoke Coffee Co./Mini Bar: Techno DJ Caro, 6-8 pm
DAJIO: Kate McNally, 7 to 10 om
The Breeze: Barefoot Wade, 9 pm

Friday, June 24
Ocracoke Community Library in Deepwater Theater: Stories & more for rising K and up. 1 pm
Books to Be Red: Donald Davis story telling group, 3 pm (correction from a prior post)  
Ocracoke Coffee Co./Mini Bar: Brooke & Nick, 6-8 pm
The Breeze: Gary Dudley and The Maxtones, 9:30 pm

Saturday, June 25
DAJIO: Brooke & Nick, 7 to 10 pm
The Breeze: Gary Dudley and
The Maxtones, 9:30 pm

NPS weekly programs

Bird Walk Tuesday, June 21. Meet outside at the beach access parking lot adjacent to the NPS Ocracoke Campground, 8:30 am.

Ocracoke Lighthouse base open daily:  Monday to Thursday. 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Twenty-minute talks are at 11 a.m.

Shaping these Barrier Islands
Monday to Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Wars, hurricanes, winds and ocean currents have
all had impacts on the shores of Cape Hatteras.
outside the Ocracoke Discovery Center at Pilot Town Road by the south end ferry docks.

Banker Ponies 
Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the pony pen. Meet the ponies
who once roamed as a wild herd and learn about their living history on Ocracoke
Island.

 

Still processing Hurricane Dorian, September 6, 2019   

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The patterns on these volute shells show the years when they were stressed. Photo by Ann Ehringhaus

By Ann Ehringhaus

The young girl showed me the shell she’d found out here at Cape Lookout.

“I love this smooth part,” she said, showing me how she could rub inside the whelk

shell.  “It helps me when I’m stressed,” she said.

She was in fourth grade and needed comfort dealing with stress. She longed for smoothness.

I nodded and began to share how shells show they’ve had a hard year: They forget how to make their pattern by skipping spots in their pattern, zigzagging, or leaving it blank altogether.

This pattern disruption can show that the hard year involved lack of regular food, changing water temperature in habitat, or too many predators. As these things improve, the shell resumes its pattern.

All living things periodically have hard years of physical habitat change or big emotional losses.

And what about human beings? How do we smooth our stressed parts? How do we calm our nervous systems so we can return to dealing with whatever life offers us? Hurricane Dorian happened in 2019 and is still mentioned constantly around Ocracoke.  

Many of us are still working with the trauma that stunned us so thoroughly. We are rubbing the rough places that still need to be smoothed, seen, felt, and heard.

We may continue to do this for years to come.

Surely, we cannot be resilient or strong ALL the time; some days we just need some quiet support to rest and rebuild our lives and community.

I remember moving to Ocracoke in 1971 and folks were still talking about the 1944 storm. It takes a long time to get over trauma. Our bodies need to feel safe and supported again. And we need kindness and tenderness from others, including visitors who weren’t here for the storm or recovery, but also love this island.

Let’s honor our own and others’ experiences by finding the support we need, respecting the quiet our neighbors might still need for extra rest, and seeking treatments from various healing practitioners on Ocracoke and Hatteras.

All of it will help…and many of us still know we need it.

Ann Ehringhaus

Ann Ehringhaus moved to Ocracoke in 1971 to be a schoolteacher. In 1984 she opened Oscar’s House B&B, which she owned and operated for 33 years and wrote Ten Thousand Breakfasts that chronicled her experiences. She has retired and now works here and there for state or national parks as a volunteer or photo artist in residence. She has worked all over Portsmouth Island (north and south Core Banks).  She wrote this article while recently working at Cape Lookout lighthouse during a five-day nor’easter.

Dredging begins in Bigfoot Slough to alleviate shoaling

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The Dredge Merritt is working in Big Foot Slough off Ocracoke to alleviate shoaling. Photo: C. Leinbach


From our news services

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ side caster Dredge Merritt today (June 17) began work to clear critical shoaling in Bigfoot Slough, just outside the N.C. Ferry Division’s Ocracoke-Silver Lake Terminal.

The shoaling prompted recent schedule reductions on the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and Cedar Island-Ocracoke routes.

The dredging operation is expected to take between seven and 10 days, depending on weather and sea conditions.

Upon successful completion, the dredging efforts will result in a deeper, wider channel that will lead to the return of larger sound class ferries to the N.C. Ferry System’s two longest routes. Once the channel is deemed safe, the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter routes will resume their full summer schedules.

The temporary reduced schedule for the Pamlico Sound ferries, as well as the Hatteras-Ocracoke route, is here.
Real-time updates on weather or mechanical delays on the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter routes can be found on the Twitter feed @NCFerryPamSound.

Public invited to Citizen Advisory Committee meeting on flood mitigation funding

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Image from the 2917 Hurricane Matthew Resilient Redevelopment Plan, available on the RebuildNC.gov website.

RALEIGH – The state Citizen Advisory Committee for HUD Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation funding will hold a virtual public meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, June 22.

The public is invited to attend the first public meeting of this group that will advise the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) on the implementation of the Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation, including the Strategic Buyout Program.

Committee members are chosen to represent individuals living or working in areas of North Carolina defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as “Most Impacted and Distressed” (MID) by Hurricanes Matthew and/or Florence, as well as those with relevant technical and industry experience.

Islander Kelley Shinn is a member of the committee. She said the committee was formed to build trust between citizens and the government and get input from local people in towns that have been devastated.

 “When Roy Cooper came to Ocracoke on the back wind of Dorian, he not only listened, he heard us,” Shinn said. “Under his leadership, NCORR had already been developed to address the complex challenges of disaster recovery in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, then Florence. There is no easy fix, and of course, as with any new trauma, the healing isn’t a straight course, nor one without unintentional missteps, but the CAC seems to be just one more way that Cooper’s administration is doing its best to listen and to hear community members who have seen devastation first hand on how best to help them on a path toward resiliency, and to set a  better course for many others in the state that will be susceptible to disruption and possibly displacement with the increase of climate disasters.”

Those wishing to attend should register online at: https://bit.ly/CACmtgJune22.

HUD has made a total of $202 million in funding available to North Carolina for mitigation activities.

The N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a division of the state Department of Public Safety, administers programs that include long-term disaster recovery, buyout, resiliency, affordable housing, infrastructure and pandemic relief, among others. Learn more at ReBuild.NC.Gov.

The state also is seeking comments on these resiliency plans.

State seeks comments on resilience planning

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High waters in Ocracoke streets. Photo: C. Leinbach

From our news services

State and regional officials are asking for public input to help develop a set of projects to better prepare the coast for climate hazards such as beaches and wetlands erosion, flood, heavy rainfall, saltwater intrusion, severe storms and wind, water quality issues, and invasive species.

The North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency and its Regions Innovating for Strong Economies and Environment, or RISE, Program are working with the North Carolina Rural Center and North Carolina Councils of Government to develop a portfolio of priority projects that strengthen regional resilience.

Officials said diverse stakeholder partnership is needed to ensure that the scope of work reflects local priorities.

To that end, individual surveys are posted for residents in each coastal region. The surveys take about 15 minutes to complete, and responses are needed by Friday, June 17.

For the Albemarle Region, which includes Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties, complete the survey at https://form.jotform.com/221145063944149.

Stakeholders and the public were previously engaged to identify the most concerning hazards impacting the region to identify the climate hazards that will serve as the basis for the vulnerability assessment, according to the survey.

In related news, the Dynamics of Extreme Events, People and Places (DEEPP) from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday (June 16) will unveil preliminary findings of their two-year survey interviewing Ocracoke residents about their experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Dorian.

All are invited to attend the session in the Ocracoke Community Center.

Released balloons: the scourge of the beach and seas 

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Balloon on Ocracoke beach. Photo: P. Vankevich

This is the first of a series of stories regarding the ecological and economic harm of marine debris.

By Peter Vankevich and Caroline Branan

The magnitude of plastics and other marine debris in the world’s oceans is a code-5 alarm. The statistics paint a bleak picture of the already disastrous impact this pollution is causing.

At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. It will only worsen if hard action is not taken soon.  

The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, made up of “marine debris,” is estimated to be four times the size of France.

For beach walkers, it is never pleasant to see plastics, especially deflated balloons.

On the Outer Banks, many are aware of the dangers they pose to wildlife, but someone celebrating a birthday and releasing balloons thousands of miles away doesn’t realize those balloons may endanger wildlife and — end up on beaches.

“Balloons are specifically concerning as they persist in the environment for a long time, can travel long distances to pollute the most pristine places and they can appear to wildlife like a food item when floating in bodies of water,” said Michelle Tongue, deputy chief of resource management and science for the National Park Service’s Outer Banks Group. 

NPS employees remove balloons when found on the beach.

“In one year on Ocracoke alone, Seashore staff collected 551 balloons,” Tongue said.

Not only are deflated balloons found on the beach but are present out to sea.

Brian Patteson has run year-round offshore pelagic sea birding trips out of Hatteras to the Gulf Stream since since 1986. “I see them just about every trip,” he said. “Sometimes we see several if the water is calm enough to see them far away.”

Balloons have been around since 1824 when famed British physicist and chemist Michael Farraday invented them using rubber to contain gases such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen and air.  

In the 20th century, balloons became a staple for festive gatherings. Throughout the world, millions of air-filled balloons — these days made of latex or Mylar— are purchased yearly. Most stay out of the environment and end up in landfills. 

But when balloons are filled with helium and released into the sky for special events, in small or massive numbers, they become detrimental.

Released balloon stuck in a tree on remote Portsmouth Island, NC , photographed June 26, 2022 by Peter Vankevich

Since helium is lighter than air, the balloons, often with strings attached, rise only to eventually find their way back down. They often become entangled in trees and can be eyesores for years.

Utility companies complain that balloons made of mylar are responsible for many utility power outages when they connect with power lines. Their silvery coating serves as a conductor for electricity and can short transformers just by coming near high-voltage lines. 

Many will argue that their greatest harm is to wildlife.

For marine denizens, deflated balloons resemble jelly fish or squid, common prey for sea turtles, whales and dolphins. Once ingested, balloons can block the gastrointestinal tract, causing infections and other complications leading to death.

Animals also can become entangled in attached balloon strings and ribbons, which can lead to their death. 

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify how many sea turtles die from ingesting plastics,” said Mary Vosburgh, co-founder of Balloonsblow.org. “But there are studies that show a great deal of sea turtles and seabirds are full of plastic. The amount of plastic we find that is bit up and partially eaten by sea turtles, birds, and fish is alarming.”

The balloon industry argues that latex, which is made of natural rubber, is biodegradable. But the time it takes for latex to decompose is long and before that, does not prevent marine animals from consuming them.

Sable Island, Nova Scotia

Latex and Mylar balloons are found on beaches throughout the world. 

To illustrate how far and quickly released balloons can travel, it is worth looking at Sable Island, a crescent-shaped island, roughly 25 miles in length located 100 miles off Nova Scotia and the exclusive nesting grounds of the Ipswich Sparrow.

Washed up balloon on Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Photo by Zoe Lucas

“All kinds of garbage wash up on the beach on Sable,” says Zoe Lucas, who has worked on the island since the early 1970s and has extensively documented flora and fauna of the island. “Everything that you could possibly imagine floating around in the ocean you find on the island, including medical supplies.

“Plastics increasingly dominate the synthetic debris that comes ashore. When I first started looking at debris, there was a lot of glass and fishing gear, and now there are more household and industrial products, but most is plastic of some kind, and the plastic breaks up into smaller, smaller pieces.”

Lucas has long paid attention to balloons noting that many have identification on them as they are used for advertising or events.

“The interesting thing is that about 85% of the balloons that were turning up on Sable Island had come from the continental U.S,” she said.

Some years ago, Lucas found one deflated balloon marked with a school name from Ohio and the date March 31, and it appeared on the island three days later. “It was likely a release with a large number of balloons—one turned up on Sable; the rest of them probably ended up in the ocean,” she said.

In another part of the world, a study by the University of Tasmania, noted that balloons are the No. 1 marine debris risk of mortality for seabirds. 

Balloons found offshore of the Outer Banks. Photo by Jeff Lewis

Ban the Balloon?

Environmental organizations have long called for an outright ban of balloon releases and advocate for alternatives to celebrate festive occasions other than balloons. Bubble makers, colorful buntings and non-helium balloons firmly attached to poles are just a few.

Many communities have prohibited balloon releases, but only a handful of states have some form of legislation regulating the release of balloons, though there is proposed legislation in several others, according to Clean Virginia Waterways, a nonprofit organization located at Longwood University.

None of them has a total ban.

Virginia’s law, for example, makes it unlawful for any person to release into the atmosphere within a one-hour period 50 or more balloons. 

Florida limits releases within a 24-hour period of 10 or more balloons.

California has a total ban but only for Mylar balloons, or those constructed of electrically conductive material that cause power outages.

Some argue that education is more effective than laws and regulations.

Critical helium shortages

The slow political decision-making process to eliminate released balloons may be overtaken by production problems of their gas of choice, world events and rising costs.

Helium is the second most-abundant element in the known universe, but relatively scarce on Earth, and it is a nonrenewable resource. Whereas released balloons and their attached strings and ribbons make their way back to Earth, the gas continues to rise and then disappears forever into space.  

Currently, there is a world-wide helium gas shortage which has been cyclical over the years. 

Helium is a byproduct of underground radioactive decay and is extracted during natural gas production. Only a few countries are responsible for production, the major ones being United States, Qatar, Algeria and Russia. All are currently having maintenance and production problems.

In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent trade sanctions have restricted that country’s exports, impacting the supply chain.

Helium is unique among all elements in that it can reach ultra-cold temperatures, approaching absolute zero, before changing to liquid, making it vital for critical industrial applications and research. The shortages and inflated costs are adversely affecting research and production of essential products.

One of the most important medical-related uses for helium is for magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs. This equipment takes detailed pictures of the insides of a patient’s body to help diagnose medical conditions. MRI equipment is fitted with superconductive magnetic coils that require liquid helium to keep them cold without disruption. 

For many industrial applications, there is no ready substitute for helium. It is used extensively in the production of semiconductor chips, cell phones, televisions and computers. It is vital in aerospace and defense technologies, high-tech manufacturing, and the production of fiber optic cable.

Unlike the loss of helium in balloons, according to a recent article in “Physics Today,” there are central helium recovery and liquefaction systems that can recover about 70% of the helium used by universities and others.

Another gas that could be used for balloon releases is hydrogen since it is lighter than air. But hydrogen is highly volatile and subject to fiery explosions, posing a danger to human beings and therefore definitely not suitable for recreational balloon releases.

If there is a priority order for the uses of helium, recreational released balloons must be towards the bottom. 

Released balloons have strings attached. Photographed on Ocracoke Island by Earle Irwin

Ocracoke events June 13 to 19–updated

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Most NPS programs are held in the bench area outside the Discovery Center at Pilot Town Road. Photo: C. Leinbach

NPS programs are at the end.

Tuesday, June 14
Ocracoke Preservation Society Porch Talk: Birds of Ocracoke, 1 pm
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Bryan Mayer, 7 pm
DAJIO: Chris Blount

Wednesday, June 15
Dr. Burkart from Roanoke Island Animal Clinic will be at the Community Center. For appointments please call the clinic at 252-473-3117.
Ocracoke Community Library, temporarily in the Deepwater Theater, School Road. Open from 1 to 5 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays. Storytime for babies, toddlers & preschoolers: 10 am Wednesdays through July.
Ocracoke Preservation Society Porch Talk: Kids Kraft – Shell Mosaic, 1 pm
Ocracoke Coffee Company/Mini Bar: Team Trivia, 6-8 pm
Ocracoke Waterways Commission, 6:30 pm. Ocracoke Community Center.
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Bryan Mayer, 7 pm

Thursday, June 16
Dynamics of Extreme Events, People and Places (DEEPP) will present its findings on how Ocracoke prepares for, is affected by and recovers from major storms. See flyer below.
Rescheduled to Friday 1:30 pm. Ocracoke Preservation Society book signing, 1 pm. “Remarkable Women of the Outer Banks,” by Hannah Bunn West.

Ocracoke Coffee Company/Mini Bar: DJ Yess, 6-8 pm
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Brooke & Nick, 7 pm

Friday, June 17
Ocracoke Tourism Development Authority, 9 am. Ocracoke Community Center.
Ocracoke Preservation Society book signing, 1 30 pm. “Remarkable Women of the Outer Banks,” by Hannah Bunn West.
Ocracoke Coffee Company/Mini Bar: Brooke & Nick, 6-8 pm
The Breeze: The Lost Artist, 9:30 pm

Saturday, June 18
Ocracoke Community Library Summer Reading Program kick-off Foam Party 10 am. Community Park.
The Breeze: The Lost Artist, 9:30 pm

Sunday, June 19 Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a holiday that recognizes the end of slavery. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the last remaining enslaved people in Galveston Bay, Texas, learned of their freedom.

NPS weekly programs:

Ocracoke Lighthouse base open daily: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Twenty-minute talks are at 11 a.m. Monday to Thursday.

Unless otherwise stated, the programs below are outside the Ocracoke Discovery Center at Pilot Town Road by the south end ferry docks.

Shaping these Barrier Islands
Monday to Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Wars, hurricanes, winds and ocean currents have all had impacts on the shores of Cape Hatteras.

Banker Ponies 
Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the pony pen. Meet the ponies who once roamed as a wild herd and learn about their living history on Ocracoke Island.

Remarkable women of the Outer Banks get their own book

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By Peter Vankevich

Hannah Bunn West has shone a spotlight on some little-known, impactful women in the history of the Outer Banks.

Her new book, “Remarkable Women of the Outer Banks” (The History Press, 2022), reveals seven such women, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the recent past.

The first chapter begins with the Lost Colony and features Eleanor Dare, wife of Ananias Dare and the daughter of John White, the colony’s governor.

In her third trimester of pregnancy, Eleanor arrived on Roanoke in July of 1587. On Aug. 18, she gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America. Little is known as to what became of them.

Back then, mother/infant mortality even in England was high and that Eleanor gave birth in such a primitive setting with no medical help caught the author’s attention.

West, who grew up in Kill Devil Hills, provides meticulous detail about the time and the theories of what happened to the settlers. There are 29 footnotes to the first chapter alone.

“We have observations from some of the men at that time from surviving journals of John White and Thomas Hariot and other sources, but we have very little record of the women’s experiences,” said West in an interview. “I chose Eleanor Dare mostly because a big aim of this book was to widen the lens and look at some different perspectives on the commonly known history that we have on the Outer Banks.”

The other women featured with their own chapters are Chrissy Bowser, Irene Tate, Nellie Myrtle Pridgen, Carolista Baum, Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Virginia Tillett.

Prior to the book’s conception, two of these women, Chrissy Bowser and Irene Tate were unfamiliar to the author.

Chrissy Bowser was selected as a post-Civil War African American landowner. West first learned of her while visiting Island Farm, a living history site on Roanoke Island that depicts life in the mid-1800s.

While making cornbread, a docent talked enthusiastically about Bowser, the Etheridge family’s cook, who went on to own property. “She started telling this incredible story of this woman,” West said. “I have spent my childhood out here and I have always had an interest in history, but I had never heard of (Bowser). So, that was kind of one of the ways in which one of these women was chosen for my book.”

Researching Bowser’s life was not easy. There are still questions surrounding some basic aspects of her identity, birth year, and whether she was born enslaved or free.

Articles and story sources West found in the local press mostly say that Bowser was born free, but West’s research, which involved poring through census records, marriage records and Freedmen’s Colony documents, did not reveal obvious signs pointing to that.

“So, instead of definitively coming down on either side, I wanted to just present the information as objectively as I could, and make the point that, hundreds of years ago, the details of certain people’s lives were well documented, and others were essentially considered insignificant,” West said.

Despite the many footnotes, 186, at the back of the book, the book is not a dry historical reporting.

West has a degree in creative writing with a concentration in nonfiction from UNC Wilmington and a lifelong passion for history.

Nelly Myrtle Pridgen. Photo supplied by family friends

By way of introduction, West colorfully begins chapter 4 this way: “The image of a woman striding alone on the seashore is called to mind at the mention of Nelly Myrtle Pridgen by anyone who knew her. The sight of her lean figure slightly stooped like a stock of sea oats, habitually combing the stretch of sand in front of her Nags Head home was as constant and reliable as the rise and fall of the tide for nearly seven decades.”

Pridgen, who died in 1992, actively opposed development on the Outer Banks and would walk every day gathering items that would turn into an invaluable collection.

Bill and Irene Tate. Photo provided by author

How is this for a childhood memory:

West writes: “On the morning of September 12, 1900, there was an unexpected knock on the door of the Tate family, Kitty Hawk residents. They answered it to find their neighbor boy, Elijah Baum, standing with a strange gentleman who looked travel worn and weary. The stranger took off his cap and introduced himself as Wilbur Wright, from Dayton, Ohio. Little did the Tates know that the man they had received would become world famous, along with his brother Orville, for humankind’s first flight.”

Irene Tate was just three years old that morning, but the impact of his visit influenced the course of her life. She took to the sky herself becoming the first female pilot to fly round trip from New York to Miami. Her first time in an airplane predates that of the Amelia Earhart, who was also born in 1897.

Tate had many other accomplishments throughout her lengthy career, logging more than 50,000 flight miles and the chair of the Women’s Division of the National Aeronautic Association.

The writing and selected photos of this chapter makes one realize how remote and stark Kitty Hawk was at the turn of the 20th century — a far cry from what it is today.

The book is laden with black-and-white photographs drawn from many sources and which match the historical tone of the book.

Two of the better-known women garnering lots of popular press articles were Carolista Baum and Cheryl Shelton-Roberts. Baum is well known for getting in front of a bulldozer that was to level the high sand dune at Jockeys Ridge and replace it with a condominium project. She forced

Carolista Baum. Photo from the Outer Banks History Center.

the workers to cease that day and the developer later agreed to its historical importance. Baum spearheaded the efforts to turn it into a state park.

Shelton-Roberts, the only surviving woman in this book, is a life-long lover of lighthouses and through much turmoil, played a key role in moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999 to a safer location. Had she not been successful, the lighthouse would have fallen into the ocean. Whether to move the lighthouse or leave it to nature drew strong feelings on both sides. This chapter includes a lot of inside details, including Senator Marc Basnight getting then-President Clinton’s ear to secure funding.

This well written book is successful on two levels. The women merit inclusion for their accomplishments, and each chapter serves as a historical chapter on the evolving history of the Outer Banks.

The book is getting attention. It seems like almost every day someone is asking if a particular woman was included or will be in the next volume, West said.

I, along with many others, have suggestions for other women to be hailed as a remarkable woman of the Outer Banks. But having read this book, I would not substitute any.

West may oblige with further volumes, but that hasn’t been decided.

“Remarkable Women of the Outer Banks” is available for purchase at local independent bookstores on the Outer Banks, including Books to be Red, and through Arcadia Publishing’s website. For a full list, visit the author’s website at www.hannahwestwrites.com.

Hannah Bunn West, author of Remarkable Women of the Outer Banks. Photo provided by author.
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