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Watch a virtual green turtle nest excavation on Cape Hatteras

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A live green sea turtle found during a sea turtle excavation on Hatteras Island. It is held by Ranger Will Thompson.

From our news sources

Late August is when the eggs in the myriad sea turtle nests along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore start to hatch. Several days after they hatch, Seashore rangers will excavate nests.

Any live hatchlings found during the excavation are placed in a cool holding container and released from the same location the same evening.

The turtles must crawl on their own to get to the water, though volunteers and NPS staff will keep predators away from them. The main predator in the National Seashore are ghost crabs.

Rangers Annie, Megan and Will excavated a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest Aug. 25 that hatched six days earlier and was filmed live and later posted on the Seashore’s Facebook page.

This was a relocated nest found too close to the high tide line. It had been moved to a safer location close to the dunes. Because the nest was relocated, the rangers knew that 135 eggs had been laid.

An inventory involves counting egg shells, unhatched eggs and live or dead hatchlings. Inventories of excavated nests help provide a better understanding of the life cycles of sea turtles.

Spoiler alert: In the video below, you will see some hatchlings found alive, none dead.

This virtual sea turtle experience was produced in partnership with Outer Banks Forever and Visit The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

Outdoor showers on Ocracoke

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From the bath tub in this outdoor bathing area one can watch the full moon rise all summer long. Photo: C Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Chad Macek had never taken an outdoor shower until he visited Ocracoke in 2013.

“It was amazing,” he said about that first time. Where he was from up north, there weren’t outdoor showers.

It seems they are mostly a beach thing: it’s easier to wash the sand off while outside, and, outdoor showers are just cool.

Macek had his first outdoor shower at Oscar’s House B&B and he and his wife, Robin, are the owners of that venerable establishment, having purchased it in 2018. Now they are enjoying introducing some of their guests to the outdoor shower.

Chad even named his radio show on Ocracoke’s community radio WOVV 90.1 FM “The Outdoor Shower Power Hour.”

Airing Monday nights from 6 to 8, Macek’s show features themes from popular music of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Chad Macek’s image for his WOVV radio show, Outdoor Shower Power Hour. Photo by Robin Macek.

Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) is the Norwegian concept of spending time outdoors no matter what the season.

The expression literally translates as “open-air living” and was popularized in the 1850s by the Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen who used the term to describe the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Granted, Ocracoke is not Norway, but friluftsliv could apply to Ocracoke since the island’s mild weather promotes outdoor activities – especially visiting the beach — all year.

And outdoor showers fit right into that.

“I just love mine,” is a frequent refrain about outdoor showers.

Some people use them year-round.

Katy Mitchell, owner of the Magic Bean Coffee Bazaar, loves hers and says she and her Airbnb guests “use it until it’s too cold.”

The shower at Oscar’s is among the many versions throughout the island.

One island couple has expanded on the concept by adding a bathtub to their newly installed outdoor bathing area.

The woman loves that the claw-foot bathtub is situated so that when sitting in the tub, one can watch the full moon rise from a strategically located window.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I’m having so much fun.”

William Howard built this shower and others all over the island.

“There are some pretty unique ones,” he said.

One of those is at the home of Art and Amay Strissell.

The shower bottom is made up of 190 blue, Saratoga water bottles placed upside down in a hexagonal box.

Strissell said he and Adan Tellez of Washington, Beaufort County, created the form and then they jimmied the bottles in place.

The bottles make a slight tinkling sound when they are stood on and as the water drains through them.

At night, the bottles are lighted.

“We love it immensely,” Strissell said. “It’s great for the kids.”

The outdoor shower with a floor made of upside down blue bottles in daylight at the home of Art and Amay Strissell. Photo: C. Leinbach
The outdoor shower at night at the home of Art and Amay Strissell.
The outdoor shower at Thurston House B&B is painted to look like a beach towel. Photo: C. Leinbach
The outdoor shower at the home of Kirsten and Dan Zapotek has a unique shower head.
Above the Zapotek’s shower are the spreading limbs of a large live oak tree. Photo: C. Leinbach

Ocracoke events Aug. 23 to 29

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Ocracoke’s Silver Lake harbor. Photo: C. Leinbach

Monday, Aug. 23 
Friends of the Library Used Book Sale, Ocracoke Community Library (inside Deepwater Theater), 3 to 7 pm Monday through Friday; 9 am to 1 pm Saturday.

Ocracoke Oyster Company: Kate McNally, 6:30pm 

Tuesday, Aug. 24
Coyote Music Den, 13 Cabana Dr: Coyote Backyard Concert, 8 pm. All concerts are sliding scale “pay what you can” at the gate. No reservations. Walk, Bike, Taxi or Tram. NO ON-SITE PARKING but the venue has a lot nearby. Visit www.coyotemusic.net for details.

Wednesday, Aug. 25
Mini Bar at Ocracoke Coffee: Trivia night, 6 pm.

Ocracoke Oyster Company: Brooke & Nick, 6:30 pm 

The Breeze: Derelicts of Grace, 9pm

DAJIO: Barefoot Wade, 7pm

Coyote Music Den, 13 Cabana Dr: Coyote + Martin Garrish Backyard Concert, 8 pm. All concerts are sliding scale “pay what you can” at the gate. No reservations. Walk, Bike, Taxi or Tram. NO ON-SITE PARKING but the venue has a lot nearby. Visit www.coyotemusic.net for details.

Thursday, Aug. 26
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Barefoot Wade, 6:30pm 

The Breeze: Derelicts of Grace, 9pm

DAJIO: Raygun Ruby, 7pm

Friday, Aug. 27
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Clam Slammers, 6:30pm 

The Breeze: The Eli Craig Band, 9pm

Saturday, Aug. 28
Ocracoke Oyster Company: Clam Slammers, 6:30pm 

The Breeze: The Eli Craig Band, 9pm

DAJIO: Kate McNally, 7pm

National Park Programs on Ocracoke
The National Park Service Ocracoke Island interpretive programs on Ocracoke, unless otherwise stated, are outside the Ocracoke Discovery Center at Pilot Town Road by the south end ferry docks. They will run until Sept. 6.

Note: Consistent with CDC guidance regarding areas of substantial or high transmission, visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask inside all park buildings.

Stories of Ocracoke Island
Monday to Friday from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Learn about the location and legacy of Ocracoke Island. From serving as an early port village and primary point of entry to North Carolina to Blackbeard’s final battle, Ocracoke Island possesses a unique heritage resulting from its continued remote setting.

Shaping these barrier islands:
Monday to Friday from 2 to 2:30 p.m.  Wars, hurricanes, winds and ocean currents have all had impacts on the shores of Cape Hatteras.

War Comes to Ocracoke
Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 4:30 p.m. Learn about the role Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks have played in shaping our country’s conflicts.

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse
Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit the lighthouse and discuss the details and history of this beautiful beacon. The base of the lighthouse will be staffed and open on dates and times listed above from June 2 through Aug. 13.

Banker Ponies
Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 10:45 a.m. at the Pony Pen. Come meet the ponies who once roamed as a wild herd and learn about their living history on Ocracoke Island.

Explore the Shore
Every Wednesday from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Meet outside at the beach access parking area adjacent to the Ocracoke Campground. Take an easy beach walk with a ranger and learn about what calls the beach its home.

New Ocracoke eatery Stockroom Street Food to open on Sunday

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Stockroom Street Food, a take-out restaurant serving breakfast and lunch with SE Asian and Middle Eastern influences, will open Sunday, Aug. 22. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Austin Daniel thinks Ocracoke is ready for his brand of cooking that has Thai, South Pacific and Middle Eastern influences.

His Stockroom Street Food take-out restaurant in the back end of the Community Store will have a “soft” opening on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 and Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Regular hours will begin Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily but closed Wednesdays.

A breakfast and lunch place, the menu features a breakfast burrito, cheddar cheese grits bowl, steel-cut oats, tabbouleh, Szechuan Noodles and salads. Turkish breakfast bowls are his partner Misha Sissine’s influence.

Main dishes include pork meatball Banh Mi, Vietnamese chicken salad, super veggie burrito, Thai fish cakes, Bok choy with shitake and oyster mushrooms, and two all-beef, natural hot dogs.

Although Daniel will serve Banh Mi sandwiches, “it’s not a sandwich shop,” he said as he continued to prep while talking to a visitor. There’s no deep fryer and Daniel wants “everything as fresh as possible.”

Street food vendors are typically known for doing one thing and doing it well, he said.

His inspiration started with his love for veggie burritos.

“When I was in art school in San Francisco, I pretty much lived on these every day,” he said. “So, there will be no meat burritos at all.”

Hence his limited menu in the small space that used to house the Graceful Bakery before it was flooded in Dorian.

Originally, Daniel wanted his business to be an actual food truck.

Austin Daniel inside his Stockroom Streetfood take-out restaurant. Photo: C. Leinbach

“This Must Be the Place,” was to be its name, which is still incorporated into his logo and an inside neon light.

The Stockroom is so named because this part of the Community Store had been the stockroom.  It is now wholly separated from the main area of the community store.

Many years ago, Daniel, who hails from Reidsville, Rockingham County, learned to cook from Tim Fields, who owned the Cat Ridge Deli in the rear of the former Albert Styron’s Store

“He had his (menu) but he also let me play and experiment,” Daniel said about that time. “I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life but that that job was one that’s by far my favorite job ever.”

So now it’s his turn to create a culinary experience and also do his part for the environment with having compostable containers and sourcing food from as many North Carolina venues as possibly.

Daniel, a wood and metal sculptor, recently returned to the island.

He was doing his art thing here in 1999 when “two hurricanes hit that year and wiped me out, so I moved to Chapel Hill,” he said.

The biggest hurricane Ocracoke has seen to date – Dorian in 2019 – brought him back because there was a lot of rebuilding work that he could help with and also teach cooking in the Ocracoke School After-school program.

Then COVID-19 hit, and he wasn’t into teaching via video.

But the opportunity for a restaurant came up and he has spent the last several months building a shop.

Stockroom Street Food will be open at least through Thanksgiving, Daniel said.

Right now, he is asking everyone to wear a mask inside, including those vaccinated, as he wants to do his part in keeping the community and visitors safe.

For those who are unable to mask, online ordering will be available starting Tuesday, Aug. 23, at clover.com/online-ordering/stockroom.

Stockroom Streetfood is trying to be waste conscious. Photo: C. Leinbach
One part of the Stockroom Streetfood menu.

High risk for rip currents today; stay out of the water

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Spot the rip current. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service F

From our news services

A high surf advisory and a rip current risk is in effect for the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands and Core Banks through today, with breaking waves of 6 to 10 feet possible, the National Weather Service out of Newport/Morehead City said today (Aug. 21).

The swells are coming from Tropical Storm Henri which is expected to become a hurricane as it passes well off the coast today.

No rain or high winds are expected on the Outer Banks from this storm, but minor beach erosion and overwash of vulnerable dune structures are possible, especially around high tide this evening.

Farther north, a hurricane warning was issued Friday evening for parts of Long Island and the Connecticut coast. A storm surge warning is also in effect for parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and flooding throughout areas of southern New England.

Hurricane Bob was the last hurricane to make landfall in New England 30 years ago. It came ashore in Rhode Island as a Category 2 storm, killing at least 17 people and creating more than $1.5 billion worth of damage.

Bob left streets in coastal towns littered with boats blown free of their moorings, knocked out power and water to hundreds of thousands for days.

COVID-19 booster shots available on Ocracoke and mainland Hyde

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COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available at the Ocracoke Health Center. Photo: C. Leinbach

Both the Ocracoke Health Center and the Hyde County Health Department can now provide a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to those who qualify.

Currently, CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose.
This includes people who have: 
–Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
–Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
–Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
–Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
–Advanced or untreated HIV infection.

Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response. People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.

Mandy Cochran, a registered nurse at the Ocracoke Health Center, said that Ocracoke has some COVID-19 cases and she echoed state officials that cases of the virus are surging all over the state.

“People thought (the virus) was done, but cases went up to 7,000 a few days ago,” she said.

She urged those who haven’t gotten vaccinated to do so.

Appointments for vaccines are required and to get a a third shot at the Ocracoke Health Center, call 252-928-1511, or call the Hyde County Health Department at 252-926-4467. 

Hyde commissioners want ‘Blackbeard’s flag’ off the EMS logo

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The Hyde County Emergency Services logo. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

A Hyde County commissioner thinks the so-called Blackbeard’s flag figure of a skeletal Satan projects the wrong image when an EMS vehicle arrives at an emergency.

“We have heart attack victims; we have people sick,” said Commissioner Benjamin Simmons III at the Aug. 2 meeting, which is available for viewing on the Hyde County Public Information Facebook page. “The last thing we need on any of our emergency vehicles or websites, in my opinion, is a devil with a piercing heart. It’s disturbing to me.”

The EMS logo includes the Hyde County seal, a drawing of the Mattamuskeet Lodge and the image of a skeletal devil with a sword aimed at a red heart.

“I think it’s important that when someone shows up to save a life not to have a patch with a devil sticking to their arm,” Simmons said.

Simmons asked that the image be modified by the end of the year.

Hyde County Manager Kris Noble said the emblem represents Ocracoke since Blackbeard has history here, and Ocracoke’s Commissioner Randal Mathews said it’s a theme on the island and that many sport this flag with this image.

While a motion passed to remove the image and replace it with something else, such as the lighthouse, the commissioners asked Noble to come up with cost estimates for changing the emblems for the September meeting.

Noble said in an interview that Justin Gibbs, the previous EMS director, developed the logo more than four years ago. The emblem, in the form of a sleeve patch, is on a lot of shirts, she said, but the latest batch of sweatshirts and T-shirts ordered does not include the emblem, only text.

She said she will meet with Emergency Services Director David White to research the total cost of changing the emblem.

Flags for sale at the Pirate’s Chest on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

Noble told the commissioners that Blackbeard flew this flag more than 300 years ago, but this is a popular misconception, according to North Carolina historian Kevin Duffus.

“The popular Blackbeard flag flown today was never Blackbeard’s flag, according to irrefutable evidence,” Duffus said in a piece he wrote exclusively for the Ocracoke Observer. “Absolutely no record from Blackbeard’s time described his flag as having a two-horned skeleton holding an hourglass and a spear or dart pointed at a bleeding heart.”

A writer, Ralph Delahaye Paine, his 1911 book, The Book of Buried Treasure: Being a True History of the Gold, Jewels, and Plate of Pirates, Galleons, Etc., which are Sought for to this Day was the first writer to describe the flag that is today attributed to Blackbeard, Duffus says.

Witnesses and others have said, according to Duffus’s research, that Blackbeard simply hoisted a black flag with a skull in the center.

To read Duffus’s essay about the flag, click: The truth about Blackbeard’s Flag.

Noble said the public is welcome to comment by leaving a voicemail at 252-926-5288 or by going to https://forms.gle/qWzxU8EXfaQDahWp6 and filling out the form.

Dangerous rip currents and rough surf expected this weekend

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Photo: P. Vankevich

From our news services

The National Weather Service today issued a warning that swells from Tropical Cyclone Henri will impact beaches on the Outer Banks beginning Friday and lasting into the weekend.

This will lead to rough surf and the potential for life threatening rip currents.

As of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Henri was 190 miles southwest of Bermuda, where a tropical storm watch that had been in effect on Tuesday was lifted. The storm was moving west at 8 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. It was expected to keep moving west until Friday, when forecasters said that they expected it to turn north, the National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. 

A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph.

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph and higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons and similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.

Currently, Henri is a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, but it may become Hurricane Henri by the weekend.

Former islander Kathy Ortman: 1949 to 2021

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Kathy Ortman

Kathleen Schrode Ortman, 72, of Glebe Harbor, Westmoreland County, Virginia, died July 31.

She was the wife of George Ortman, who was the principal of Ocracoke School from 2004 to 2010

Born March 30, 1949, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, she was a daughter of the late Nora Sovinski John Schrode of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Kathy graduated from Coughlin High School and Luzerne County Community College in Wilkes-Barre.  

After raising her daughters, she went on at the age of 41 to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1991. She continued her education becoming certified in elementary and special education.

Kathy worked as an instructional aide and teacher before retiring and moving to Ocracoke where she continued as a substitute teacher when needed at Ocracoke School. Kathy also served as a full-time volunteer for six years at Ocracoke when she was not substituting.

Kathy served as a member of the Glebe Harbor/Cabin Point Property Owners’ Association and a short time as a member of the Glebe Harbor Civic Association. She also enjoyed volunteering at Wakefield, George Washington’s Birthplace, as a time-period actor.

In addition to her husband, Kathy is survived by daughters Michele Shirey (Jamie), and Angela Barnes (Robert); four grandsons, Caleb and Colin Shirey; and Nathan and Dalton Barnes; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Kathy enjoyed reading, crocheting, shopping, but most of all being surrounded by her children and grandchildren. They were the major topic of conversation for anyone she met. She was the loudest supporter at her grandsons’ sports events as she was with her children when they were growing up.

Her last words to her daughters were, “Kiss the boys for me.”

The truth about Blackbeard’s Flag

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According to Historian Kevin Duffus, a simple black flag with a skull in the center, comparable to the black flag at right, was the true Blackbeard’s flag rather than the popular one at left.

By Kevin P. Duffus © 2021

The popular Blackbeard flag flown today was never Blackbeard’s flag, according to irrefutable evidence. If the notorious pirate captain saw it, he wouldn’t know whose it was. Likely, he would have thought the design to be unnecessarily elaborate.

To seek and report the true facts of pirates of the Golden Age, most historians—but not all—rely on the original depositions of the pirates’ victims; the official correspondence of colonial governors, Royal Navy captains, and merchants; trial records and logbooks; and less reliable published news reports from London and Boston. Yes, there was inaccurate news in 1718, just as there always has been, and always will be.

Absolutely no record from Blackbeard’s time described his flag as having a two-horned skeleton holding an hourglass and a spear or dart pointed at a bleeding heart. In fact, nearly 200 years would pass before that flag motif would be for the first time portrayed in words by an American journalist who penned a book about buried treasure while living on his bucolic New Hampshire farm. 

That journalist, Ralph Delahaye Paine, a Yale graduate and once a member of the ultra-secret Skull and Crossbones Society, was the first writer to describe the flag that is today attributed to Blackbeard. Paine’s heirs truly deserve royalties from the flag’s sales. 

The very first time the flag eventually attributed to Blackbeard was described in print was in Ralph Delahaye Paine’s 1911 book, ‘The Book of Buried Treasure.

In his 1911 book, “The Book of Buried Treasure: Being a True History of the Gold, Jewels, and Plate of Pirates, Galleons, Etc., which are Sought for to this Day,” Paine writes about the piratical activities of Capt. John Quelch who operated off the coast of Brazil in 1704: “A flag was then hoisted, called ‘Old Roger,’ described as having ‘in the middle of it an Anatomy (skeleton) with an Hourglass in one hand, and a dart in the Heart with 3 drops of Blood proceeding from it in the other.’” 

The purpose of the skeleton or skull on a ship’s flag intimated imminent death if the pirates’ victims resisted capture. On land, similar memento mori symbols, or skull and crossbones, simply represent everyone’s inevitable fate and can be found on countless gravestones, both in Europe and America. They do not mean that the interred was once a pirate.

A year after Paine’s book was published, the “Mariner’s Mirror,” a respected British academic journal, reproduced a line drawing of Quelch’s “Old Roger” purportedly derived from a French watercolor in the collections of the National Library of France. All of the familiar features of the modern “Blackbeard flag” are included in the “Mariner’s Mirror” line drawing, except that the “anatomy” or skeleton seems to be wearing a four-pointed crown, not a pair of horns. Furthermore, the line drawing’s features are significantly different from the French flag on which it was claimed to be derived.

The line drawing of the “Jolly Roger” published in the 1912 Mariner’s Mirror Vol. 2 quarterly journal based on the description written by Ralph Paine of pirate John Quelch’s 1704 flag

Accompanying the “Old Roger” illustration in the “Mariner’s Mirror” is a dubious comment attributed to a “C.F.” stating that Paine’s description came from “a quotation from an old account of John Quelch, a pirate executed at Boston in 1704.” 

The sole authoritative source, however, that describes the brief piratical career of Quelch is the published transcript of his June 1704 Boston trial. I have carefully examined the entire transcript of that trial and not once is it mentioned that the pirates hoisted a flag as described by Paine and illustrated in the “Mariner’s Mirror.”

On the contrary, during at least one act of piracy, a witness and member of Quelch’s crew testified that “we had English colors flying…”

Nevertheless, other writers including the English historian David Cordingly, author of the gold-standard pirate history “Under the Black Flag,” perpetuated the notion that Quelch was associated with the earliest mention of the flag known as “Old Roger.”

Thus, it might be observed that history does not necessarily repeat itself but historians often repeat each other.

Following Paine’s 1911 “True History” of buried treasure, a succession of authors and publishers supplemented or copied images of various pirate flags, all of which featured the New Hampshire journalist-farmer’s “Old Roger” anatomy holding an hourglass—except for one variation. In 1923, the four-pointed crown was replaced by a more prominent pair of horns, and then repeated thereafter. From then on, the original “Old Roger” no longer symbolized “Death” but instead, Satan.

Regardless, many more decades would pass before the 1911 Quelch “Old Roger” would become “Blackbeard’s flag.”

This flag, taken from a woodcut featured in a 1726 edition of “General History of Pirates,” is likely an accurate representation of how Blackbeard’s flag appeared in 1718. 

As a prime example of how the truth of history becomes disfigured over time, in 1933, a pirate historian named Charles Grey confused Quelch’s hanging with that of another pirate crew, along with the future Blackbeard flag: “That under which a number of pirates executed at Boston in 1719 sailed is described as ‘A Black Flag in the midst of which was portrayed in White an Anatomy having an Hourglass in one hand and in the other a Bleeding Heart transfixed by a dart from which said heart dropped Three Gouts of Blood. This flag they called the Jolly Roger.’”

It was not until 1978 upon the publication of a popular Time-Life book, “The Pirates of the Spanish Main,” written by the English adventurer and TV presenter Douglas Scott Botting and illustrated by Gareth Floyd, that the flag of the horned skeleton holding an hourglass was attributed to Blackbeard. Why then? No one seems to know. Perhaps Time-Life found it embarrassing that the world’s best-known pirate did not, at that time, seem to have his own flag according to pirate historians.

But Blackbeard did have his own flags, although not nearly as distinctive or elaborate as the Quelch “Old Roger” flag.

If we are to rely on the very words of the men who personally witnessed Blackbeard’s pirate flags in action—and we should—then this is what we should believe: his flag was simply black with a skull in the center. 

When Blackbeard detained the ship “Mountserrat Merchant” near Nevis in late November 1717, the stern of his newly acquired “Queen Anne’s Revenge” displayed a flag described in a deposition as “Death Head.” Four months later, when Blackbeard’s flotilla of vessels engaged and captured the ship “Protestant Caesar” off Honduras, they flew what a witness described as “Black Flags and Deaths Heads in them.”

Another victim testified seeing “black Collours” flying from one of Blackbeard’s vessels. No witness ever testified to seeing what is sold today to the credulous as Blackbeard’s flag featuring the devil holding an hourglass.

Unfortunately, in the words of the British writer Patrick Pringle, “You cannot destroy a popular belief merely by proving it to be false”—especially when money is involved.

Kevin Duffus, named the 2014 North Carolina Historian of the Year by the North Carolina Society of Historians, is the author of “The Last Days of Black Beard The Pirate,” and five books and four award-winning documentary films, all on North Carolina maritime history. See more online at https://www.facebook.com/KevinPDuffus.

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