Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. September Interviews 9/1 Carol Perry 9/8 Nupur Tustin 9/15 Maggie Pill 9/22 Veronica Bond 9/29 Rhys Bowen Guest Blogs 9/18 Mark Leichliter -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Setting-Hatteras Island

My novel, Sparkle Days, is set in the Outer Banks (OBX) in North Carolina. Last week, I gave a brief overview of Bodie Island, where my main character’s champagne and sparkling wine store is located. Her investigation takes her south to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. This week features Hatteras Island, my favorite.

South of Nags Head, Route 12 goes over Bonner Bridge, which was built in 1963 and spans Oregon Inlet. Because of the narrowness of OBX islands, the ocean, during storms, creates and connects islands. Oregon and Hatteras (between Hatteras and Ocracoke) Inlets were created during a fierce hurricane in 1846. The inlet was named after a side-wheel steamer named the Oregon, the first vessel to pass through the new inlet.

The Bonner Bridge needs replacement. At the risk of repeating hearsay, one engineer rated the bridge for safety at one, the lowest, in a rating scale of one hundred. In October 1990, a barge hit the bridge knocking out several spans. Since that time, political warfare has done absolutely nothing to replace the bridge. Those of us who cross Bonner Bridge regularly debate whether to go fast over the bridge in case it falls behind us or to take the slow approach in case spans fall down before we reach them. No matter which approach one takes, everyone holds their breath while driving over the bridge. One of the reasons for the controversy is because of Pea Island.

Once over the bridge, Route 12 traverses Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, which once was an island. Pea Island is a protected area that
environmentalists would like to close to traffic. Proposals for a longer bridge bypassing Pea Island to Rodanthe have been presented. Although more expensive, this is the best solution because it fulfills the objectives of preserving Pea Island’s wildlife sanctuary and building a safer bridge in a more protected area away from the inlet’s turbulent waters. Over wash (in OBX this is considered one constantly used word) from the ocean undermining Route 12 shuts down the road disrupting business, resident and visitor travel. The longer bridge would eliminate the constant cost of maintaining the risky bridge, Route 12 and would protect the wildlife area. (Check: for the best weather information and to check on road closings.)

Rodanthe (Row-danth-ie), Waves and Salvo are the first three towns on Hatteras Island. Rodanthe was not the original name. Native Americans called the area Chicamacomico, which served as the site of the first U. S. Life Saving Station in 1873. The service transformed into the U. S. Coast Guard in 1915. The preserved historic buildings are open for touring.

National seashore areas divide Hatteras Island. This land is owned by the Federal government, whose presence often conflicts with local and regional control. Some areas of the beach on Bodie, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are open to beach driving, which is of great convenience to sport fisher(wo)men. The best fishing holes on Hatteras Island are on the Cape and at the inlet beaches south of Hatteras Village, both of which are nearly inaccessible without a motorized vehicle. Most of these beaches recently have been closed due to nesting migratory birds. The Piping Plover, an endangered migratory bird, which has caused beach closure to traffic, has spurred the slogan, “Piping Plover…tastes like chicken.” This sentiment seems redneck, but the negative impact to businesses dependent on fishing give reason to decry the beach closures. Wildlife statistics gathered by the National Park Service are used to support beach closures by groups such as the Audubon Society, yet these same statistics, say the locals, don’t warrant closures. Regardless, the Federal government has closed parts of the beaches to traffic. An unnamed source from NC State University admitted to me that the Piping Plover nests best on the roof of the Food Lion in Avon, the next southern town, a location not counted in the statistics.

Avon mixes businesses, restaurants, and beach houses providing a varied vacation experience. Originally called Kinnakeet, it too started as a life saving station. The off shore area of Avon starts the dangerous Diamond Shoals, which have resulted in over six hundred recorded ship wrecks.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse located on Cape Point, the peninsula stretching into the Atlantic, resides by the town of Buxton. The close proximity of the lighthouse to the ocean resulting from beach erosion necessitated moving the lighthouse. This intricate engineering was accomplished the summer of 1999. The picture to the right shows its current location. The lighthouse and keepers’ cottage are open to the public.

Buxton hosts the East Coast Surfing Championship every September on the north shore of the Cape. Although Buxton has its attractions, the island’s essential services are located in the town as are offices for Dare County. Frisco, the community to the south of Buxton, mainly consists of neighborhoods, filled with rental and resident housing on the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound.

A stretch of National Beach divides Frisco from Hatteras Village, the most southern town on Hatteras Island. Hatteras Village, also known as a drinking town with a fishing problem, is home to the charter fishing fleet. Local ordinances conflict with this silly saying because restaurants are prohibited from serving mixed drinks on Hatteras Island. Patrons may order wine or beer or are allow to BYOB. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel hit Hatteras Island hard creating an inlet just north of Hatteras Village and rendering it an island. The Army Corps of Engineers issued contracts to private contractors to fill the inlet using data obtained from the US Geological Survey. FEMA and the State of North Carolina paid the bill.

Rental Home Links
Hatteras Realty
Midgett Realty

Beach Bum Tip #3
The currents around the shoals cause strong undertows, rough surf and rip currents. Waves normally flow toward the beach. Rip currents flow out to sea. One stretch of water can be normal for swimming, but ten yards away there could be a rip current. Once experienced, you can see rip currents, but for the inexperienced, these currents are deadly and result in many deaths each summer. Caught in a rip current, a swimmer must not panic or fight against the current. Swimming in a parallel or diagonal route towards shore will enable the swimmer to get out of the current and get back to the beach. Most swimmers try to fight the current, resulting in exhaustion and drowning.

No comments: